Mutoscope: the Hand Cranked Cinema.




Introduction: Mutoscope: the Hand Cranked Cinema.

About: 3rd year Mechanical Engineer at UC Davis. I am interested in bridging software with mechanical hardware.

Hello, this is my first instructable I hope you like it. Please comment at the bottom if there is something you don't understand I'll do my best to make any corrections or clarifications. This instructable will teach you how to make a hand cranked mutoscope out of simple materials. By making this device you can see how animation works and how traditional projectors work. I wanted to build this because I love antiques and wish I grew up during the penny arcade era. I hope you like it! This project overal costed me about $20-$30 just what a student can afford :)

What is a Mutoscope?
A mutoscope is a primitive version of the TV and Movie projector. The mutoscope was developed by Herman Casler in 1894. Mutoscopes were found at many Penny arcades and Piers. The mutoscope industry crashed when the projector was invented and movie theaters were built. However there still remained an audience when the mutoscopes started to play exotic dancers on their reels. Mutoscopes are often referred to "What the Butler saw" because the viewing port made one feel like they were peering into a key hole spying.

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Step 1: How Does It Work?


How it works.
The Mutoscope relies on the principle of persistence of vision. It is simply just a giant flip book on a wheel. Mutoscopes can be used to teach animation and how movies work. For more on persistence of vision try making a thaumatrope.

1. Make two circles.
2. Draw one shape on one side (a bird) and another shape on one side (cage).
3. Tape it onto a skewer matching up the images.
4. Now roll the skewer in your hand and its a bird in a cage.

Step 2: Let's Get Started: Materials and Tools

-About 800-1000 3 by 5 index cards.
-Mod podge
-Hot glue sticks
-PVC pipe coupling
-Balsa wood
-Hex bolt
-nuts and washers
More will be included later if needed

- A wood saw for wood
- Dremel with wood cutting attachment and router
- Printer
- Giant clamp(maybe pipe clamp) or a brick
- hot glue gun
- jig saw
- Computer with video editing software

Note: I use a dremel and jigsaw for all of the cutting because thats all I got but if you have other methods you can use that too. Bandsaw wood be 10 times better

Sorr I don' have a nice list of pictures :(

Step 3: Making the Reel: the Flipbook: Printing Frames

The First thing we need to do is make the flipbook.

1.To start you need to take a video that’s about 55 seconds long and import it into a movie editing software in my case I used Sony Vegas Pro 8. I do believe you can use another program but I haven’t tried yet. (There is an instructable to do this for Quicktime Pro).

2. Now You need to make sure the video is in 15 frames per second. For Sony Vegas go to -File -Properties -FPS (15)

3. Next you need to render your video as Image Sequence so press -File -Render as - Image Sequence (.bmp ect) JPEG format. Now render

4. Take your image sequence rotate them all 90 degrees

5. Next You need to make a word doc. I used 3by 5 with margins at .08 (because of Printer print area capabilities) and 1.5 on the right margin.

6. Next copy and paste all of your images onto the index card. (turn off all other applications because about 900 pictures are being uploaded).

7. Print

Step 4: Making the Flip Book: Binding

-Mod Podge
-Your 1000 frames.

1. Stack cards to make sure one side edge is completely smooth. Extrmely important I bought cheapy cards that don't line up right and I had problems later.

2. Next I used a vise and clamped them together.

3. MODPODGE take a brush and brush on that nice creamy mod podge onto the spine.

4. Let Dry

5. Repeat 3 and four about 3-4 times.

6. Take it out of the vise and go to the plumbing store.

Step 5: Making the Reel: Attach to Reel

Selecting PVC Pipe
Now that you have your flipbook you need to attach it to a piece of PVC pipe
1. Take your Flipbook to the plumbing store
2. Find a PVC coupling that your whole reel fits on.
3. Buy it

Now to glue it you will need
1. Modge Podge
2. Hotglue
3. Rough grain sander
4. patience and Luck :)

1. First of all my binding didn't come out very well because I bought cheapy cards that didn't stack It works but I don't know if it'll last and it jumps a little
2. First, I sanded the bind of the flipbook and the pvc pipe so that when I used the glue it would get into the grit.
3. Next I used hot glue on the edge of the pipe then glued the rest down Look at picture
I probably should have used a different kind of glue but this is what I thought about at the time. Maybe wood or PVC cement?
Then I attached two wooden circles on the sides to add an extra support. it had about 1 inch beyond the cards.

Step 6: Making the Outer Shell

This is where I stopped taking pictures. It was fairly easy and I did it in about 1 hour and a half. I used some 5/8 inch plywood. and a piece of redwood for the bottom.
My design had to fit the reel and have 1" clearance on both sides. After trying to attach the reel I ran into a couple of problems.

1. I left the top open rather thanthe side. This caused problems when trying to bolt it in. It took me about 2 hours trying to get it right.
2. I guessed where the reel should go along with the flipper that pulls the pages back.
3. Lastly, I should have drilled the holes before assembly.

Step 7: Attaching the Reel!

This was one of the harder parts because of how I designed my case. You could make it easy by hinging oneside of the box. I thought about hinging a lid but now I realize why mutoscopes open from the side.
What you need:
- 6" 3/8" bolt
-3/8" Fender washer
-Two cut washers
- three 3/8" hex nuts

Pretty simple:
  1. Put it through fender washer
  2. put through drilled hole
  3. Put a washer on
  4. put a nut on
  5. put another washer on
  6. put reel on
  7. put a washer on the otherside
  8. put another nut on and screw it on tight
  9. put another washer on and feed it through the last hole! FINISHED!

As I did this I realized one thing, I needed to glue the washer that touches the reel and the nuts that follow them so that the reel spins along with them.

Adding a flipper
All you need is a 5" bolt and a hex nut
1. I used my finger to test where the flipper should be then positioned the bolt
2. Drilled the whole. then did the same on the other side using the x,y measurements
3. Stuck the bolt in and used the nut to keep it in place
4. It works!

For the crank I used

Step 8: Authors Notes

This project was extremely fun and was pretty easy to make. The most challenging part was screwing in all of the nuts and washers at the end.
I didn't add a handle because I just use a wrench to turn the hex bolt but maybe later on I will create a steampunk version with an airship animation. WOW That'll be so cool! Again, I recommend that you put a hinge on the side without the Hex bolt head that way you can change reels and put them a lot easier. I really liked writing this and I hope you liked reading it.

I am entering this in the 4th annual epilogue challenge and I dn't know where I'm suppose to write what I'd do with a laser cutter so I'll put it here.
A laser cutter would allow me to do projects at home with precision. I only have a dremel and borrow use a jigsaw at school. In addition I would use the laser cutter for my school RepRap club that I'm trying to start. I alredy know what I would make first if I won. I would make a clear mutoscope with gears and everything so that it has a better timing system rather than 360 degrees and your done. Second, I would do is prototype my product which I can't tell because you might want to steal my brilliant ideas. The last project I have in mind is teaching my club how to use a laser cutter safely and the benefits of having one. Well I hope you think I deserve one. Plus If you have any ideas for projects that I can do I'd love to give it a try :) Wish me luck and try the project yourself.

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    11 Discussions


    4 years ago

    hi, thank you very much for your tutorial! I have a question, is it possible to use another glue instead of Modge Podge? It seem not to easy for me find it.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Yes I would even go as far to say the Mod Podge didn't work all that well for my case. Mod Podge is pretty much standard white glue as far as I can tell. When I built this everything that I used was just what I had access to.


    6 years ago on Step 7

    A very nice tutorial. Clear photos and instructions. The problem with the adhesive and your PVC pipe with paper stock cards, Maybe a wood dowel instead of the PVC would make wood clue a very strong bond. Maybe a silicone adhesive could work for mixed materials and would have some flexibility. Im just not sure if silicone would leach into and discolour the cards. Thank you for posting this. The finished piece looks very nice.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Awesome. This is a project I have fancied doing for years. Must find the time soon.


    8 years ago on Step 7

    Hey i love your post how much would it cost me to commision u to make one 4 me get in touch with me at


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool effort! I can't wait to see the video and finished project with LED's and crank!!

    One note - Casler invented it in 1894, not 1984. I was around in 1984 and we had TV by then! I just noticed that small typo in the page above.

    Great Instructible...keep up the great (and creative) work!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Oh thanks! Also, mutoscopes were not very popular because movie theater started to open. so... they decided to put things that you couldn't show in a theater...


    8 years ago on Step 8

    Very nicely done! You are a highly motivated student! I always loved these and the whole concept. Thanks for the quality instructable!


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 8

    Thanks! I am planning to add a video this weekend!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Please rate and critique it so that i can improve my instructables and if you like it don't forget to vote. Also checkout some of the other cool projects on here! I will post the video soon