Things aren’t always as we see or perceive them. There are many ways to trick your eyes with optical illusions and 3D images. A fun trick to play on your eyes is with a zoetrope. This classic tool turns multiple images into animation.
A zoetrope produces the illusion of motion by running several static pictures back to back. It’s the simplest form of cartoon animation. Similar to flip books that feature a picture per page that changes slightly. As the pages flip, the drawings jump to life and animate. A zoetrope is a cylinder version of a flip book.
The cylinder has to contain vertical slits on the sides. The inside has a band of sequenced pictures. As it spins, the viewer looks through the slits and watches a cartoon animation. The slits keep the images from blurring together and produce an illusion of movement.
- Circular cardboard container (4″ diameter)
- Plastic thumbtack
- Utility knife
- Zoetrope template
- Electrical tape
- Use a ruler to measure 3″ from the bottom of the circular cardboard container. Place marks along the outside of the container as a cutting guide.
- As an aid, wrap electrical tape around the container along the 3″ markings you created.
- Use a utility knife to cut the container along the tape guideline.
- If you want to make a Geyser zoetrope, download the zoetrope template here and print it out on legal size paper. Using a pair of scissors, carefully cut it out.
- Wrap the template around the container, near the open end, and create marks on the container that align with the template’s black lines.
- Remove the template and lengthen the lines to around 1″. The lines should also be about 1/16th of an inch wide. Error on the narrower side.
- Push a plastic thumbtack (the kind that stick out) through the bottom of the can. Try to make sure the tack is centered.
- Use a small piece of electrical tape, inside the container, to hold the tack in place.
- Try spinning the apparatus using the tack. If you’re able to give the container a decent spin, you’ve done well!
- Wrap the zoetrope template into the inside of the container.
- Look through the slits that you’ve cut and into the container. You should be able to make out one or two of the images inside.
- Spin the apparatus using the tack and gaze inside. The geyser zoetrope comes to life!
Visit the experiment page for more on the science behind how a zoetrope works.