Invented in the mid-19th century, the zoetrope was a novel piece of proto-cinematic technology. Now, nearly two centuries later—and well into advanced cinema and animation—the spinning animation device doesn’t quite hold the same wonder that it used to, but there is still a distinct element of magic and amusement about it. Interestingly, there has been something of a resurgence of zoetrope devices enabled by 3D printing technologies.
3D model platform Thingiverse is awash with zoetrope models and various artists have used 3D printing to create artistic and original pieces inspired by the proto-cinematic device. The most recent example of 3D printed zoetropes might also be the most compelling. Featured on Kickstarter, 4-Mation is marketed as an “interactive 3D zoetrope” because it is offered as both a DIY kit and a finished product.
Developed by Kevin Holmes and his team, the design for the 4-Mation zoetrope animations can be downloaded and 3D printed at home. Alternately, backers can choose to order a completed version of the spinning animation device, though these “Exhibit” models are limited. If you choose to 3D print, assemble and paint your own, Holmes and his team say it can then be sold.
“Printing and painting animations is not really the business we want to be in…we want to sell 4-Mation kits,” Holmes writes. “So if you want to buy a 4-Mation kit, print your own animation and then sell the assembled machine and animation, we couldn’t be happier.”
In the Kickstarter campaign, four 3D printed zoetrope animations are presented: a jumping frog, a fish being eaten by another fish, an Avengers-inspired LEGO parade and a snake emerging from a pyramid. All four animations run in a loop once the zoetrope is spun. In person, strobe lights embedded into the zoetrope’s frame create the animation effect.
So far, Holmes and his team have already raised over £17,000 for the 4-Mation zoetrope through their Kickstarter, far exceeding their goal of £8,000. There are still 21 days to get in on the 3D printed zoetrope fun!