3D printed zoetrope

Sam sez, "I was the lead designer for the show Archer on FX and left it in pursuit of doing some of my own projects and one of those is helping with the teaching of animation. So where I am at there seems to be a lot of confusion on how animation works, I have decided to make an interactive zoetrope with little 3d sculptures that should help the people around here learn a little about the mechanics, or nuts and bolts of animation. Cory's posts on Boing Boing have inspired me down the road of 3D printing exploration which has really been great for this project. I call it tactile animation, being able to take 2D ideas and bring them into 3D actuality it will help students of animation learn the concepts and principles of animation in a way that is not so abstract. When I am totally finished with the project I will have plans on the site so people can make their own."

3D printed Zoetrope UPDATE (Thanks, Sam!)


  1. i dig it. i actually keep the old Preston Blair walk cycles printed out and taped on my desk, to help inform some of my illustration. I’d love to see a video of this thing spinning and strobing!

  2. Since you’re looking through a single slit at a time in a zoetrope, isn’t it a bit silly to go to the trouble of printing figures in 3D; the viewer will only see them in 2D, anyway.

    1. “Since you’re looking through a single slit at a time in a zoetrope, isn’t it a bit silly to go to the trouble of printing figures in 3D; the viewer will only see them in 2D, anyway.”

      The slit’s not going to be *that* small, I imagine.

      1. Actually the size of the slit is very important, it’s just like the shutter of a camera. The higher the shutter speed the sharper or less blurred the image (providing you have appropriate lighting conditions) The experience of 3D zoetropes is much different to the 2D variety. The viewer experiences foreshortening as they change position. However, as with all optical devices (2D or 3D) the video isn’t the ‘real’ experience, the human eye/brain is really quite incredible at editing what’s in front of it ;-)

  3. There’s a big one of these at the Today Art Museum (今日美术馆) in Beijing.

    The platter is maybe a meter wide, about chest level, with various shiny metal figures bopping around. It’s in an enclosure, opaque walls to block outside light, with an opening about 40 cm wide by a meter high, to see in and a strobe light inside timed to the revolutions of the platter.

    The effect’s really startling. Took me a minute to figure out the figures weren’t really some kind of liquid metal animatronic.

    Thing is, the opening is, well, open. No glass or anything. And the platter’s spinning pretty fast, enough that you can feel the breeze, even though the figures, skinny things, don’t make good fan blades. Very tempting to touch… I check it for severed fingers every time I go by there, but, no luck yet.

  4. Ha! “Tactile animation!” Kinda like claymation, but *without* the careful, painstaking, thoughtful, wonderfully complex hand-craft… sounds kind of oxymoronic- Myself, I look forward to seeing the next Wallace and Gromit.

  5. 3D printed zoetrope: http://rjameshealy.com/

    This 3D zoetrope was created during my artist residency at What It Is Oak Park, Illinois.

    The piece began as a study of the American flag, its colours and the hypnotic movements of a fabric signature. My work explores perception, in the illusion of movement, the artistic practice of observation and record, and the phenomena of memory versus experience.

    59 rapid prototyped models are housed in a 24 inch motorised drum. Illumination is provided by LEDs allowing the animation to be viewed in all lighting conditions.

    Unlike a traditional zoetrope, the inside and outside spin in different directions resulting in the animation appearing bigger (the viewer does not need to look through the piece) Using models instead of drawings creates a far more immersive experience. Viewers can move around the piece choosing their own viewpoint like a traditional sculptural object. Another advantage of models over drawings is parallax; objects further away appear to move slower than those close by.

    The stand and ‘drum’ are hand crafted from solid walnut and veneer. The majority of the other components were digitally manufactured. The zoetrope stands approx 53 inches high with a 22-inch square footprint.

    My blog documents the development of the piece in depth. It covers both creative and technical issues. It was written ‘diary style’ which resulted in the recording of some unplanned topics!


  6. Snap! I recently created a 3D zoetrope during my artist residency at What It Is, Chicago. You can check it out here…

  7. .
    rev 1
    print out a few hundred “frames”
    attach to a belt (rather than a disc)
    run past an aperture (proscenium?)
    strobe light(s)
    = real 3D “movie”
    bit of a storage problem though
    rev 2
    print in wax
    buffer as they come on-“stage”
    melt them down on exeunt
    = no length limit
    rev 3
    rotate them past pigment sprays
    as they head on-stage
    = color movies!

  8. There is a fantastic zoetrope at the Ghibli museum outside of Japan. It’s in a glass cabinet, about a meter wide, and uses a strobe light to create the animated effect. Characters from Totoro if I recall.

    Unfortunately they don’t allow photography, and an attendant watching over the room politely asked me to delete the video I tried to covertly film :(

  9. As previously posted. Gregory Barsamian has been doing this by hand for years. Wonderfully sculpted spinning sculptures presented in dimly lit rooms and “animated” with perfectly timed strobe lights. I saw one of his exhibits a few years ago and I walked through it multiple times. Absolutely amazing.

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