3D Printed Objects Create Stunning Zoetrope Animation


Stanford design instructor John Edmark has re-conceptualized the zoetrope by using carefully designed 3D-printed sculptures in conjunction with a quick shutter speed and strobe light. You might remember zoetropes as those children's toys where a cylinder with slots is rotated quickly. Inside a zoetrope are a series of images (ex. a person riding a horse) that, when rotated, produce the illusion of movement and animation. Zoetropes and other late 19th Century devices like the phenakistoscope were used to project images before the invention of film projection techniques.

Edmark's experiment essentially uses his camera's shutter speed the way a zoetrope uses its viewing slots. That is, it uses the flashing of light to act as a shutter along with persistence of vision to create an animation effect. However, even more planning was needed to create the incredible sophistication of these organic effects. It involved matching the camera's shutter speed with the rotation of the objects, along with some mathematical wizardry. Edmark explains:

These are 3-D printed sculptures designed to animate when spun under a strobe light. The placement of the appendages is determined by the same method nature uses in pinecones and sunflowers. The rotation speed is synchronized to the strobe so that one flash occurs every time the sculpture turns 137.5º—the golden angle. If you count the number of spirals on any of these sculptures you will find that they are always Fibonacci numbers. For this video, rather than using a strobe, the camera was set to a very short shutter speed (1/4000 sec) in order to freeze the spinning sculpture.

The golden angle Edmark speaks of is a ration that's connected to how many flowers arrange their petals. The overall effect has produced some stunning results.