PHENAKISTOSCOPE

 

   Everyone is somehow influenced by animation. It is prevalent within our surroundings — whether it be commercials on television, advertisements on digital billboards, or childhood entertainment that helped shape the person you are now. Animation has a very scattered history, since there are many forms of it that exist. The phenakistiscope is one of the many forms of animation that is deep-rooted in the industry’s historical timeline.

   Back then entertainment was limited in comparison to what we have now. Children were surrounded by more hand-made, crafted objects as a source of entertainment and resorted to it. The Phenakistiscope is an example of an early toy that presented the theme and function of true animation. The Phenakistiscope — a popular Victorian parlor optical toy, generally marketed for children — is widely considered to be among the earliest forms of animation and the precursor to modern cinema. The operation of this interactive toy allowed for individuals to see some sort of motion, which is perceived by illusion and the human eye. In 1832, Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau and his sons introduced this invention. It was referred to as a spindle viewer. Other names for this invention is the Phantasmascope and the Fantoscope. The Phenakistiscope uses the persistence of motion principle to create an illusion of motion. (website 2) Many scientists around this era peaked interest and experimented with optical illusions, photography, and image projections. The Phenakistiscope consists of two discs mounted on the same axis. The first discs has apparent slots around the edge, and the second contained drawings of successive action, drawn around the disc in concentric circles. This constitutes of scenes such as a walking man, a bouncing ball, or a frown turning into a smile.

   An example of a modern day Phenakistiscope can be seen in the work done by Graphic Designer Drew Tetz. Drew Tetz is a graphic designer that specializes on designing for musical artists. One of his well known works of art are usually displayed on playable vinyls. Tetz explains his inspirations and process of his well-known records:

“In 2016 I became fascinated with an early animation device known as a “phenakistiscope.” This pre-cinema animation technique used a disc which created the illusion of motion when viewed through a spinning frame. While this curious home media format fell by the wayside with the rise of film projector, the analog animation can still be seen with the help of a turntable & a camera phone. When viewed under a bright light, the RPM of the record player syncs up with the shutter speed of the camera, causing the frames to blend together into a seamless animation. (You can also use a strobe light flashing at 30Hz to witness the effect with the naked eye.)”

   One thing I like about this form of modern Phenakistiscope is that it also borrows elements of the Zoetrope. Although Tetz specifies that the works of the Phenakistiscope caught his interest, when tracing back into animation history it can be analyzed that it functions the way a Zoetrope would work as well. Another element of this form of modern Phenakistiscope is that it offers an audio-visual experience. When playing the record, the owner is able to hear the music from the record as well as watch the mesmerizing movements Tetz illustrated on the record. The best thing about this modern invention is that both the visual and the audio output of the device are appreciated in a plethora of ways. It can affect the sensory and allow for a new experience to come about. Some elements that Tetz uses is 3D illusion, which can be seen on some of his works. Another interesting take on the Phenakistiscope is a laser cut wooden playable record, which shows true 3D as well as careful attention to the movements of the subjects in the artifact. It is hard to declare whether Tetz should improve his designs or come up with something new. The only thing I could think about is allowing for people to engage with records by making replaceable disks on top of their records, so they can engage with the sound in many ways.

Drew Tetz
The Everyday Illusion – L’Orange

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