How Do Zoetropes Work

The optical toy that creates the illusion of moving images..

Today when you go to the cinema or watch TV, what you are actually seeing is a huge number of consecutively photographed images, or frames, displayed one after the other in very close succession. As each frame of zoetropes is individual there is a brief moment between each picture when there is nothing to see.

If the series of images can be displayed at a high enough rate, however, these blanks, or gaps, between two pictures can become so miniscule that the brain does not even register them. Not only that but we can also perceive “apparent movement’ in the images. This is due to an illusion called the phi phenomenon, which enables the mind to mentally bridge the gap between two still images.

The zoetrope can help us to achieve this psychological illusion by fooling the brain that what it’s seeing is a continuous moving image. The toy features a hollow drum decorated inside with a sequence of stationary images, each one different from the last. Around the edge of the drum, at regular intervals in between each image, are narrow slits through which the viewer can peer.

The view through each slit reveals just one image at a time -the one on the opposite side of the drum. When the drum is spun, however, the viewer sees multiple views through multiple slits, giving the impression of steady, continuous movement as the brain fills in the gaps between the pictures.

Facts and questions about zoetropes

PraxinoscopeWhat is zoetrope? A zoetrope is a device that produces the illusion of motion.

What does mean zoetrope? Active turn or wheel of life.

What is the earliest known zoetrope? Chao hua chich kuan (China, AD 180, inventor Ting Huan)

Praxinoscope – The praxinoscope was an improvement on the zoetrope.

Masstransiscope – Type of linear zoetrope installed by Bill Brand at Myrtle Avenue in Brooklyn.

Sisyphish – a large scale, 3D zoetrope that uses a strobe light.

BRAVIA-drome – Largest zoetrope is 10-meter wide and 10-metric ton.  It features 64 images of the Brazilian footballer Kaka.

Zoetrope – William George Horner

The Zoetrope

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