Bicycle wheel zoetrope

Katy Beveridge turned her bicycle wheel into a zoetrope, fastening cut sheets of paper to the spokes so that the bike's wheels displayed sweet animations when in motion.

This is a piece created to question whether it was possible to film animation in realtime. Part of my CSM 3rd year disseration project I was looking at proto animation (really early basic animation) in contemporary design. I've taken a lot of influence from other contemporary designers who are using these techniques to explore the way we look at animation and how its made. As stated on my channel I have interviewed animators such as Jim le Fevre and in my research referenced other people using this technique such as David Wilson and Tim Wheatley who did this before me. I developed this project based on what is being done in animation right now as well as a lot of primary research into the history of animation techniques.

The Bicycle Animation (via Colossal)


  1. Don’t you need some way to restrict vision to the appropriate frame for it to be a zoetrope?  Maybe ride at night with an LED hooked-up to strobe the paper?

    1. Don’t you need some way to restrict vision to the appropriate frame for it to be a zoetrope?

      They’re designed to work with the frame rate of the video camera. In real life, they’d just look like white blurs.

      I agree with other posters — this is gorgeous and cool. I can’t wait to see where she takes it next. (Color?)

      The video made me nostalgic for warm sunny riding days, though. Been freezing my toes off lately.

      1. Even better: attach some small magnets to the spokes, spaced-out evenly, one for each  “frame” of the animation.  Count the N magnets as they pass, and then strobe the LED on N+1, so everything appears to stay in place while stepping through the frames, regardless of how fast you’re going.  Shouldn’t even bother with an Arduino – I’m rubbish with EE, but there’s gotta be some way to do this cheap with some jumpers and a counter IC.

    2. The video is evidence that you don’t. It wouldn’t make it better to complicate it. It works well as it is.

      1. The video is evidence that you don’t. It wouldn’t make it better to complicate it. It works well as it is.

        In order to view this animation, you must do so from behind a camera shutter (or some other form of shutter).  The strobe idea was to make the animation visible without any other mechanism

        1. Yes. The effect we see filmed is an aliasing artifact, more commonly known as ‘the wagon wheel effect’.

  2. That. Was. Amazing!!! Such a simple idea, but a stroke of genius! And the paper cutouts are truly delightful!

    I’m so going to steal that idea and have fun with my daughter’s bicycle (although I have a feeling our animations are going to be about a paper ball bouncing up and down). :)  Thank you for the idea!!!

  3. If you had glasses with variable speed LCD shutters in them you could probably see these bike animations in real time.  Or just view the world through your iphone, although I don’t think the shutter works that way on the iphone, it’s more like a continuous scanner or something…

    reminds me the olden days in animation class trying to find new ways to create/alternative ways to view animations while in college (film skool: early 1980s).  I once made a large zoetrope that was stationary and then spun one of the outer layers around, I think, (it was hanging from the ceiling). You sat in the middle and spun around on an office chair the opposite way.  It worked pretty well for a very short time. That’s why it was called the Sick0scope.

  4. It’s very cool, but her question has been answered already. Of course it’s possible to film animation in real time. Just think of those old timey nickelodeons. Also, I filmed “live” animation in the early 90’s by focusing a camera directly over the document handler of a high speed xerox machine. Each new frame was on a piece of paper. It worked.

  5. I don’t think you would need to look through any shutter. Hasn’t anyone ever looked out of a moving car window and watches the wheels of cars nearby? They hubs/rims frequently look like they’re spinning slowly backwards. Surely this would cause the same effect.

        1. Most people don’t experience this in sunlight.  Our eyes do refresh in wave patterns, though.  Maybe you’re unusual in being able to perceive it.

        2. The only effect like that I’ve noticed in sunlight comes from bright reflections off of flat surfaces on the hubcaps, which will only reflect directly from the sun to your eye at certain angles of the wheel.  That’s a fixed angle, but as you pass the other car on the highway, the angle changes, giving a similar effect to the wagon-wheel effect.  The mechanism is a little bit different though.

          As a simple experiment, go out in the sunlight with a wooden (or otherwise non-reflective) wheel that you can control.  It shouldn’t give any discernible wagon wheel effect.

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