3D Claymation Zootrope




About: Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder of www.zcorp.com, manufacturers of "3D Printer" output devices. His detailed drawings of traditional Pacific...

Take an old 78 rpm phonograph turntable and a strobe light from radioshack to display 2d and 3d animated claymation dancing zootrope sculptures.
Any constant-speed motor will work fine for spinning the platters.
The sculptures seen in this first image were made by 3dscanning and 3dprinting my head.

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Step 1: Phonograph Turntable and Strobe

The strobe shown here is a Radioshack catalog # 42-3048
It has a knob that adjusts the rate at which the strobe flashes.

The turntable you want is one that spins at 78rpm.
That's the old victrola speed which is 1.3 revolutions per second.
If you draw 8 evenly spaced cels of animation and adjust your strobe til it flashes about 10 times/second you'll see 8 copies of your animation all going at once, each at a different phase of the sequence.

Step 2: Turntable Alternative

If you don't have a 78rpm turntable or would like something more compact, a dc brushmotor with a built-in gearbox is a good alternative.
Use a variable dc powersupply to adjust the voltage that drives it to change how fast it spins.
The speed won't be perfectly steady but it will be good enough.
Most dc powersupplies have a voltage adjustment somewhere in their guts if you look around. Don't get electrocuted.

This motor is a 24 volt Pittman GM8713G883 with a 31:1 gear reduction. I'm happy with it.

Step 3: 3Dprinted Zootrope

Use your favorite 3d animation package to draw a cyclical animation.
Then 3dprint it out and point a strobe at it. I used a Zcorp 3dprinter to print this one way back in the day with experimental materials. Zcorp parts look a whole lot better now.
The zcorp machine is fast and inexpensive compared to other systems. I'm a founder of the company so of course it's awesome. http://www.zcorp.com

Pixar has been making tons of 3d zootropes on Zcorp printers lately.

Step 4: Strobo Claymation Playground at Sea of Dreams 2010

Some friends and I set up at at Sea of Dreams San Francisco New Year's eve party 2010.
We were a huge hit. All night long people were clustered around making claymation platters.
I made this one of a swimmer diving in and out of the water.

Step 5: Exploding Duck Flower

Shastina Ann-Wallace made the great platter of  claymation seen here.
It's an exploding duck flower, of course!

Step 6: Mark Maxwell's Zootrope Claymation

Here's a very nice claymation zootrope platter made by my pal Mark Maxwell at MITERS , the MIT Electronic Research Society.

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    11 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Can i make The strobe light clustering some LEDS? Please help me.


    13 years ago

    one problem with video taping it: most digicam video features will run at around 15-30 fps. now, the video could turn out fine, but its pretty possible that with the strobe flashing, it will get out of sync with the video framerate so that when the camera takes a frame, the light might be off or on...you never know. so, although we may get the idea from a video, it won't be like the real thing.

    2 replies
    royalestelfungus amungus

    Reply 12 years ago

    I have to agree. And you could remove the black frames in a video editor to have super smooth animation. Or I guess I could. Anyways . . .


    12 years ago

    This is pretty awesome. I didn't know you were a zcorp founder. That's super nifty. I saw one a few years back at SIGGRAPH and tried (unsuccessfully) to get my school Industrial Design department to purchase one. Anyhoo, circular 3d zootropes. Nice.


    Reply 13 years ago

    Are you in the Boston area? Want to help videotape it?


    Reply 13 years ago

    Does your digital camera have video capability? You could always try that. This is a very cool Instructable, but it would definitely benifit a lot from video :)