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Working model of a 19th century optical illusion device. Creates an endlessly looped animation consisting of 16 frames.


Completion date: 24/06/2017
Power: electric (Power Functions)
Dimensions: length 24 studs / width 24 studs / height 18 studs
Weight: 0.405 kg
Motors: 1 x PF M

If the name zoetrope sounds odd, it’s probably because it comes from 19th century and represents one of the first animation devices, predating the invention of the movie camera. Zoetropes were simple open cylinders with vertical slits and with a series of images drawn inside, showing the following “frames” of an animation. When the cylinder was spun, the images became a blur – but when viewed through cylinder’s side, with the vertical slits in it, a stroboscopic effect was created, giving the viewer an illusion of seeing a series of moving images.

While the original zoetropes were driven by hand and usually represented moving animals (a running horse is a classic example), my LEGO version was driven by a PF M motor and included 16 “frames” featuring a LEGO minifigure. I’ve chosen a minifigure for its many moving parts and nice details, and I was forced to use a First Order Stormtrooper minifigure because it’s the only minifigure I have 16 copies of.

As shown in the video, my zoetrope was a simple build, with a big ring set on a large Technic turntable driven by the motor, and 16 plates with minifigs on them attached to the ring’s outer rim. The plates were just the right size to serve as background for a minifigure, and to leave vertical slits between them, so that the stroboscopic effect would occur when viewed from the side. It was quite easy to take the “frames” out and rearrange the minifigs, creating a different animation – the video below shows 3 various animations. It should be noted that a video camera doesn’t do a zoetrope justice – the animation effect looks much better to the naked eye. Especially with minifigures used instead of flat images, making it a seem more like a 3D animation.


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