Pictures in Motion - A look at Old Animation Tools and Optical Toys

For contemporary people pictures in motion are something extremely ordinary. Daily doses of ads on TV and the Internet, 3D movies, mobile presentations and animations make us accustomed to the fact that we live in a world full of motion pictures. Often we don't even have enough time to stop and think of how it all looked before mankind had the TV, cinema or mobile devices.

The world of motion picture has a very rich history, full of optical illusions, studies of visual perception and surprises. At the end of the XIX century most pre-film animation devices used a sequence of pictures showing progressive phases of motion. This was quite similar to the film reel method which is still well known to this day, many years after its invention. The main difference being that the pictures in the early days were hand-painted and - well, let's be honest - the story was much shorter and simpler than that of movies today. The method can be clearly seen on the zoopraxiscope (below). This kind of divices was created by photographer Eadweard Muybridge in 1879:

An impressive collection of optical toys belongs to Richard "Dick" Balzer, who has been passionate about this topic for forty years. Props from this great set (among them - phenakistiscopes, praxinoscopes, zoetropes, magic lanterns, etc. - most of them about 150 years old) can now be viewed as animated gifs (one example below). In these digitalized versions they are "alive" again and, what's most important here, now available for wider audience through the magic of the internet. If you want to see more, just check The Richard Balzer Collection blog.

Zoetrope from Richard Balzer's Collection, France - 1870

You can see how these various devices worked, and learn a little about their history in this brief video below:

What do contemporary motion pictures and old "magic" animation tools have in common? They're sources of entertainment and knowledge, they make us curious and give us fun...

Today, just as 150 years ago, even though our technology has advanced, pictures in motion still provide us with joy and a pinch of magic.

Posted: Apr 01, 2015 | Tagged: animation, collection, illustration, picture

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