Nearly 155 years before CompuServe debuted the first animated gif in 1987, Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau unveiled an invention called the Phenakistoscope, a device that is largely considered to be the first mechanism for true animation. The simple gadget relied on the persistence of vision principle to display the illusion of images in motion. Via Juxtapoz:
The phenakistoscope used a spinning disc attached vertically to a handle. Arrayed around the disc’s center were a series of drawings showing phases of the animation, and cut through it were a series of equally spaced radial slits. The user would spin the disc and look through the moving slits at the disc’s reflection in a mirror. The scanning of the slits across the reflected images kept them from simply blurring together, so that the user would see a rapid succession of images that appeared to be a single moving picture.
Though Plateau is credited with inventing the device, there were numerous other mathematicians and physicists who were working on similar ideas around the same time, and even they were building on the works of Greek mathematician Euclid and Sir Isaac Newton who had also identified principles behind the phenakistoscope.
Courtesy the Richard Balzer Collection
Courtesy the Richard Balzer Collection
The moving image was only viewable through a narrow slit. Via Wikimedia Commons
So what kinds of things did people want to see animated as they peered into these curious motion devices? Lions eating people. Women morphing into witches. And some other pretty wild and psychedelic imagery, not unlike animated gifs today. Included here is a random selection of some of the first animated images, several of which are courtesy The Richard Balzer Collection who has been painstakingly digitizing old phenakistoscopes over on their Tumblr. (via Juxtapoz, 2headedsnake, thanks Brian!)
Animator Jake Fried (previously here and here) is back with another one of his super trippy layered animations titled Down Into Nothing. Fried paints and draws with endless layers of white-out, coffee, ink, and gouache which he photographs frame by frame to create each of his videos.
Watching Fried’s earlier work it’s amazing to see how far this technique has progressed both in style and in the sheer amount of detail he manages to cram into every frame. Jakes tells me that the surface becomes gradually uneven as he works and some of the unseen bumps and grooves from earlier compositions help guide what comes next. When he finishes the canvas is nearly an inch thick. See many more of his animations over on his website.
Minneapolis-based photographer Ben Garvin just released this wacky video of stop-motion beard tricks called Magic Beard. Garvin shot the entire video on an iPhone and used an app called Stop Motion Studio to stitch it all together. Colossal takes no responsibility for how ridiculous this is. If you liked this also check out Trim. (via Laughing Squid)
I was excited to discover that mixed media artist Brock Davis (previously) recently joined Vine and started making some fantastic little animated shorts in his clever minimalist style. Definitely worth a follow.
UK-based artist Mat Lucas works by day as a graphic designer and by night runs a Tumblr of experimental art called 89—A. Lucas tells me that many of his GIFs begin as a problem he’s facing while learning various graphics and video applications like Cinema4D, After Effects, and Photoshop. The byproduct of his experimentation are often ethereal geometric forms that pulsate, rotate and contract in various hypnotic patterns. Above are some of my favorite pieces but you can see much more here. If you liked this also check out the work of Matthew DiVito and Paolo Čerić.
Night Stroll is a lovely animated short by Tao Tajima. Various light figures are seen interacting with locations around Tokyo, I can’t begin to guess how this was all planned, shot and animated and there is almost no information about it online, but it’s remarkable nonetheless. (via be con in riot)
Innovative directing duo Matt Robinson and Tom Wrigglesworth of Wriggles & Robins (previously) just released this great new music video for the band Travis. The team shot at below freezing temperatures and filmed projected animations that could only be seen when the four band members would breath through the cold air. Although subtle, there are some amazing sequences that really make this worth watching all the way through. You might remember Wriggles & Robins’s life drawing video from a few months ago.