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Flipbooks—Handheld Animations

 
The praxinoscope has a paper strip of images around the outer edge. When you spin the device and watch the image in one of the center mirrors, the image appears to move.
 
 
Here is a flipbook using Muybridge locomotion photos. Courtesy of Optical Toys.

Before movies were invented there were a number of optical devices that produced animation effects. With weird and unpronounceable names such as thaumatrope, phenakistoscope, zoetrope, and praxinoscope, these devices let you view a spinning card with small images on it, each like a single frame in an animated movie. As the series of images spins by, it appears that the image moves because persistence of vision blends the individual images into a continuous stream as it does in the movies. It is possible to buy or make these early devices, and their odd but very unique names make it easy to search for information about them on the Internet. For example, search for "phenakistoscope" and every site the search engine finds will have something to do with the device.

Another device that has long been used to show animation is the flipbook, and early low-tech version of animated GIF files. You might be familiar with these books that you hold in one hand and flip through the pages with the other. A series of drawings turns into an animation when the pages are flipped smoothly at the right speed.

You can make your own flipbook using any printer and a series of digital images. There is no reason why you couldn't print the series of images in the upper or lower right corners of a multipage report, so people could flip the pages to see the animation. It might be one way to get people's attention. In most cases however, you'd want to do a stand-alone flipbook. Here's how to begin:

1. Capture a series of images using your camera's continuous mode. You can also shoot movies if you have the software to extract and save individual frames.

2. Design your flipbook so you can easily place and print a number of images so they are aligned and the same size. It may help in assembly if the pages are numbered. The flipbook can be any size, but smaller ones are easier to flip through. The size of a business card or slightly larger works well. In fact, you might want to purchase and design for widely available business card stock. Be sure to leave space for the binding on one edge of the layout. The side you leave it on depends on whether you are left or right handed.

3. Lay out the flipbook pages using a program designed for the purpose, or with a word processing, desktop publishing program, or photo-editing program. Many programs have templates for Avery and other products that do basic layout for you. Just be sure you can use a different picture for each card. Many business card programs assume you'll want to use the same image on all cards. Up to a point the more pages you have, the smoother and longer the animation will be.

4. Print the flipbook on the heaviest white paper your printer will accept (60 lb is recommended) and then cut out the individual frames. If your printer won't handle thick enough paper, you can print the images and then glue them onto stiff paper.

5. Arrange the pictures in order and bind the flipbook using staples, rubber bands, or glue. Some people prefer to flip with the first image on the bottom of the stack, and the last on top. You might want to experiment.

6. Holding the end of the stack that has the binding margin, fan through the pages and watch the image move.



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