Tuesday, January 24, 2017


A praxinoscope powered by a miniature hot air engine.
During the 19th century, inventors figured out that they could create the illusion of movement by presenting a series of related drawings, each seen for a split second.

Praxinoscope from the collection of Mel Birnkrant
Before the era of film, there were several devices that could accomplish this magic, such as the phenakistoscope (spinning vertical slotted disks), and the zoetrope (slotted cylinder). But the most sophisticated was the praxinoscope, which consisted of a spinning circular platform with a series of mirrors mounted on a central drum. The mirrors reflect drawings on a roll of paper set into the inside of the outer drum. 

The moving figures combine with a background, and they seem to float in 3D space. No shutter, eyepiece, or set of slots is required.

In 1888, Charles-Émile Reynaud took this idea to the next level with his Théâtre Optique (Optical Theater).

The device used 36 mirrors, with longer strips of images that went beyond simple cycles. The images were illuminated with an electric lamp — invented just a few years earlier by Thomas Edison.

Reynaud also figured out how to project the images on a screen so that an audience could watch the show, making Reynaud truly the father of animated film technology.
Wikipedia entries on:
Charles-Émile Reynaud
Théâtre Optique
More about the origins of animation at collector Mel Birnkrant's website


Unknown said...

This reminded me of something else that was done later on which was ahead of its time as well, called "The Photodrama of Creation". I dont know if you are familiar with it but lots of art involved. To my understanding it was the first time the visuals and pre-recorder audio were synched as well. May be worth checking out!

Unknown said...

Those are great! So much work for just a few seconds. Thank you!

caddisman said...

Fascinating to think of the creative thought process, merging art and science