A zoetrope is a mechanical device that creates the illusion of moving pictures, based on a spinning cylinder in which slits are cut. You look through the slits at a picture on the other side, and the strobe effect of looking through the sequence of slits frames the sequential pictures on the inside. It was invented in about 180AD. That's a long time ago! The modern way to do it is to use strobe lights or camera shutters to recreate the effect of looking through slits, but however you do it, a zoetrope is still magical.

Turntable and Strobe Light

Even if you have no more vinyl records and can't get a needle, you might want to keep your turntable around for projects like this!


Using the principle of the old zoetropes, Jim LeFevre built his own 3D discs and rotated them with turntables. The strobe effects is dependent on the camera's shutter speed. The voices you hear is LeFevre explaining the phonographantasmascope to museum patrons.

3D Zoetrope Mapping

Light effects lend extra magic to this experimental project from Graeme Hawkins.


Tim Wheatley used bicycle parts to make a zoetrope he calls a "cyclotrope".


A praxinoscope is a zoetrope that uses a series of mirrors inside the cylinder instead of slits. It was this kind of device that Edweard Muybridge used to show his famous horse sequence, the first photographic moving picture.

A Steam-powered Praxinoscope

Professor Hall explains his experiment as he goes along.


A phenakistiscope is related to the zoetrope, in fact, it works on the same principle, but is shaped differently. See the device here. Thanks to modern cameras and their shutters, we can watch the motion without viewing through the slits.

Sony Braviadrome

Sony built a huge zoetrope in Turin, Italy in 2008 for an ad campaign that eventually aired in Australia.

Pixar's Zoetrope

Pixar made this 3D zoetrope to illustrate how animation works. A strobe light turns this turntable into a lifelike cartoon.

We Got Time

A video by David Wilson for the song "We Got Time" by Moray McLaren. Also watch a fascinating video explaining how he did it.