The history of the zoetrope, an animation device that produces a tactile illusion, predates film and motion picture itself.
Instead of depending on a projection device that animates film or video through a quick succession of still images – cinema that we know and love today – a zoetrope takes the form of a carousel or drum, speeding a series of drawings, photographs or models past a viewer to create apparent movement.
Each year, BA (Hons) Animation Production students are tasked with making a zoetrope, discovering complexities around the mechanics of movement, and the challenges around working with a physically animated object.
However, with the pandemic frustrating the opportunity of physical group working, this year’s team leaders, Director Andreea Knopf, Producer Laurice Quirit and Documentarian Matt Rayner, had the additional task of co-ordinating the team to work together remotely to design, plan and create a physical zoetrope.
The finished device, which is now housed in the Live Space at AUB’s North Building, showcases how the appearance of animation in a three-dimensional space can be established through illusion.
BA (Hons) Animation Production student and team member Matt Rayner said: “Zoetrope formed part of our development of productions skills work at AUB, and the unit was really helpful as we learned a serious amount, particularly around problem-solving. We did have some issues with communications due to COVID and the nature of working remotely, but we formed a core group that worked together well.
“There was also a lot of making involved; making models, rigging, making and animating the zoetrope itself. We learned that animation was actually the easiest part, the hardest was compositing the models to be 3D printed because during that process, you had to make sure the CG models had no broken seals and were tightly put together - there’s no room for error”.
He added: “You’ve really got to think about all of these things before you start and really work on your problem-solving skills too. I’m truly grateful to have worked in such a team, as that element of the work was so important. I hope people like our zoetrope; we put so much work in, and there are a lot of intricacies built into our design!”.
BA (Hons) Animation Production Senior Lecturer Ian House said: “This project brings together the learning of how to build robust puppets and models for computer animation, with the challenge of printing these virtual creations out of the computer and into physical forms.
“The output allows for a reflective analysis concerned with the reception of screen imagery in comparison to a physical artefact. The Project’s aim was to further awareness and analysis of how the idiosyncrasies of physical craft might embed a more emotional response”.
Ian added: “I’m particularly proud of this year’s team for their outstanding efforts to bring this project to life, despite the pandemic’s difficulties. With something that is so technical in nature, it is testament to the communications skills of this group that this project has now manifested itself physically for all to see and enjoy on our AUB campus”.