Motion Pictures

In Design Overview, Whitfield freshmen complete a variety of assignments that develop technical skills and encourage a personal creative process. Various media are used throughout the course to push the notion of play and experimentation; to cultivate their creative process, students apply and strengthen their problem-solving skills as they become more comfortable assessing and discussing their ideas, decisions, and solutions. Ultimately, they begin to realize that the creative process is as important as the finished product. 

While investigating the mechanics of early animation, students explored and learned how to make Victorian-era optical toys, such as the thaumatrope and zoetrope, objects that create the illusion of motion by rapidly spinning a sequence of drawings or photographs. 

To construct their zoetrope, students used an X-ACTO knife to cut several thin window slits along a strip of black paper, the paper was affixed around the edge of a circular piece of cardboard with hot glue to create the “drum” cylinder, then a wooden dowl was attached to the center with washers and a screw as a handle for the drum to spin. As the cylinder rotates, an impression of continuous motion is created while the viewer looks through the window slits at a sequence of images placed around the inner surface of the drum cylinder.

All students drew two ‘filmstrip’ sequences on long paper for the drum interior – one strip depicting the movements of a two-legged figure (running, shuffling, skipping, walking, etc.) and a second strip depicting a subject of their choice. Ella Fox ’24 recreated a classic zoetrope design based on the work of Eadweard Muybridge, a photographer whose images of a galloping horse were important in the photographic study of motion. Other students used inanimate objects in their design, including an apple (Zoe Zotos ’24) and an ice cream cone (Ella Rogan ’24). 

“This process-oriented project gives us the opportunity to slow down, to consider how film is constructed,” said faculty member Curtis Erlinger. “It is very powerful to create your own moving imagery, your own version of ‘cinema’. The students were a bit skeptical at first, but by the end, they have this sense of wonder—that ‘wow, I made that’ type of moment.”

A class zoetrope is exhibited on a record player in the ninth grade cohort, so that students can view the different filmstrips during passing periods. Click here to view this zoetrope in motion. After hand-making these devices, students will move on to use their computers and cameras to create classic stop motion animation.