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The Praxinoscope - A Piece of Motion Picture History

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Create your own real life looping Lego animations with the praxinoscope!

By rotating the handle you can play a 12 frame animation on this piece of animation history.
The animations can be switched out, as long as you have 12 separate images or builds.

I tried to mimic a victorian aesthetic by choosing (pearl) gold and reddish brown as the main colors in this build, to give it a classy and vintage look.

As a freelance animator I am very much interested in animation history. The early beginnings of film in the 19th century speaks to my imagination, it seems like it was an age full of inventions where anything was possible. People experimented with images and how to make them move. This resulted in devices like the phenakistiscope, the zoetrope and the praxinoscope. Apparently they also liked difficult names back then!

The praxinoscope is an animation device with a rotating cylinder that has mirrors along its surface. Those mirrors reflect an image to the viewer. Due to the optical illustion called 'the persistence of vision', we see a rapid succession of images as one fluid motion. This is also why we can see movies, which are typically played at 24 frames per second, as one continuous moving motion. In fact, even 12 frames per second is already enough for a fluid motion!

For some reason I couldn't get the idea of making a Lego version of this out of my head, so I started working on some prototypes. It took me a few versions to get to a decently working prototype. Switching back and forth between building with actual bricks and digital bricks in studio 2.0 helped me to get both the technical and the visual side to where I wanted it.

  • The mirrors are Lego part 20193 and can be found in 2 sets: Assembly Square ( 10255-1) and Detective's Office (10246-1).
  • The wheel mechanism is 1:1, so one rotation of the handle is one rotation of the animation. This means that when you completely turn the handle in one second you play at 12 frames per second, which is enough for a smooth animation.
  • The animation of the Lego horse is based on Eadweard Muybridge's 'The Horse in Motion', a classic sequence of photographs of a running horse. These series of images called chronophotographs are known for their importance in the development of motion pictures.
  • I used all bricks in available colors. The only special brick would be the printed tile 'The praxinoscope' seen on the front. The horse animation could be done with stickers. 
  • The praxinoscope itself, without the pieces for the animation, consists of 781 bricks.

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