Friday, April 11, 2014

Tutorial: Make a Thaumotrope

Persistence of vision is the fun human physical flaw that makes animation work. The brain retains each image that it sees for just a fraction of a second longer than it sees it, so if you add on a new image as it's doing that, and another then a new image while the brain is retaining that last one, you have the illusion of motion: animation!

Will's been studying animation as part of her Entertainment Technology badge (it encompasses a huge conglomeration of subjects--basically every form of entertainment that uses technology), so when it was time for her to buckle down and make a gift for a buddy's birthday party, she chose to make him a thaumotrope.

A thaumotrope utilizes persistence of vision by having two separate images, one on each side of a piece of cardstock:
Will used this printable bird and cage thaumotrope.
Spin the cardstock quickly and persistence of vision makes the two images combine:

You can mimic the effect with your camera if you decrease the shutter speed, as you see above.

It's a neat little trick, isn't it? This project is actually on my list for an upcoming human biology unit study (after the dino dig, if I can ever tempt the kids away from experimental chemistry), since it exemplifies so much about the human eye and the brain. Using it to explore the history and science of animation hadn't even been on my radar until Will started studying those subjects.

Have I mentioned more or less than a thousand times previously how much I love the Girl Scouts?

As part of her gift, Will wrote out instructions for using the thaumotrope (sneaking in that writing practice!)--

--and then packaged it up in a pink Indianapolis Museum of Art gift shop bag--we're not real big on wrapping presents around here.

Other hands-on projects for this Entertainment Technology badge include stop-motion animation, two kinds of catapults, putting on stage makeup, programming something on Scratch, interviewing her Uncle, who works for Sony, building a theme park in RollerCoaster Tycoon, and making a ringtone for my phone. Will likes this badge a LOT!


Tina said...

That looks pretty cool! Handmade gifts are the best :0)

julie said...

My kids' only other choices for friends' birthday presents are to use their own money to buy a gift or to give their friend something of their own, so they ALWAYS choose the handmade gift!


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