Making Phenakistoscopes

These are very basic animation machines derived from 19th Century innovations in home-entertainment technology.  There are a number of variations within a basic structural premise, a kinetic object displays a series of images in succession, viewed through a tiny window to create the impression of a single moving image.  It’s the same principle as film stock and the effect can still be seen in modern digital animated films, particularly the popular short ‘GIF’ (Graphics Interchange Format) files found across social media and memeography.

The main difference is these are not digital, instead reliant on hand drawn objects – as a throwback to pre-industrial arts & entertainment there’s a slightly charming & folksy quaintness to the notion of a uniquely crafted hand-held device which is purpose-built for distraction.

I wanted to use different colours and adjust the position of the coloured shapes in each segment to give the impression the colours were moving around.  The first attempt was simple squares and blobs which moved from the centre of the circle to the edge. This was the opposite direction to what I had intended but it gave a good basic outcome for a fitst attempt.

Second attempt was a bit more complex, with two coloured blocks moving in towards the centre (or ‘down’ the segment) smoothly.  I left the narrow ‘slits’ blank; which had the effect of a stationary block at the top of the segment, which adds to the overall impact providing an ‘anchor’ for the eye to focus on amongst the flurry of colour and movement.  I feel without this anchor the overall outcome would be diminished  and the viewer would simply see a spiral, as all the movement is towards the centre of the circle, the eye would always be drawn back there (it’s quite hypnotic!)

Finally I have added an extra layer to the animation which was a separate coloured block moving from the centre to the edge.  I attempted to blur some of the tones as they passed each other, but it was a bit tricky doing this with texta, and without planning the colour combinations a bit more carefully.

Going to try a new version with this effect tomorrow and bring to class.

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