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Persistence of Vision/Thaumatrope and Flip Book

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Keywords: animation, art
Subject(s): Art, Animation
Grades 9 through 12
NETS-S Standard:
  • Creativity and Innovation
View Full Text of Standards
School: Manatee School for the Arts, Palmetto, FL
Planned By: Melissa Aldan
Original Author: Melissa Aldan, Palmetto
Lesson Plan: Persistence of Vision/Thaumatrope and Flip Book
Teacher/School: Melissa Aldan/Manatee School for the Arts


Class/Grade Level: Cartooning II/Grades 9-12

Thaumatrope: Historically, students will see how optical toys became popular and make one in the form of a Thaumatrope. Scientifically students will come to understand the Persistence of Vision, the theory which explains why our eyes are able to see objects on film move instead of seeing individual pictures.

Flipbook: Students will take Persistence of Vision one step further by making a short 4 second flip book that will be captured and viewed on video as animation, finally seeing the tie between art, history, science, and technology.

The student will come to understand the theory of the Persistence of Vision by creating a thaumatrope. The students take the theory further and understand the tie between film/video and art by creating a flip book and inputting the flipbook images into a video editing program, thus creating animation.

Florida Sunshine State Standards:
Thaumatrope: 7. Demonstrate awareness of the role of art and artists through history, culture, and society. VA.C.1.4.1 The student will understand how social, cultural, ecological, economic, religious, and political conditions influence the function, meaning, and execution of works of art.

Flipbook: 8. The student will demonstrate awareness of the reciprocal relationships between visual arts and other subject areas (e.g., technology, media, communication, world events).

National Standards:
6. Content Standard: Making connections between visual arts and other disciplines
Students compare the materials, technologies, media, and processes of the visual arts with those of other arts disciplines as they are used in creation and types of analysis
Students compare characteristics of visual arts within a particular historical period or style with ideas, issues, or themes in the humanities or sciences

Interdisciplinary Subjects: Art, history, science, and technology.


Thamatrope: Half wooden skewers, blank index cards, thin Sharpies, colored pencils, stick glue, scissors
Flipbooks: Typing paper cut into 4 equal sizes, Sharpies, colored pencils, paper clips

Electronic Media:
Stop Motion Pro, PowerPoint, Camera, Copy Stand

Artist or Historical Reference:
Pre-cinema, or before cinema, one way people entertained themselves was with optical toys. Many optical toys relied on a theory called Persistence of Vision which is the ability for the mind’s eye to retain an image for about 1/30th of a second. Optical toys used this theory to create visual magic tricks that played with the eyes and what we see. Optical toys included thaumatropes, phenakistoscopes, praxinoscopes, and zoetropes. These also started the idea of animation, or bringing drawn pictures to life by giving the illusion of movement. Persistence of vision and optical toys are the precursors to film and television, animation and cartoons.


Students will view sample thaumatropes and flipbooks.

Have a PowerPoint slideshow or have visuals ready that support the following important information.
• Can you imagine a life before film or television? Back then, people still found the need for entertainment through non-electronic means, such as playing music, reading books, crafts, or toys. Someone invented the OPTICAL TOY.
• Just like we are entertained today by the visual nature of the Magic Eye cartoons and images, people before the invention of film also loved things that were puzzling in nature.
• A thaumatrope is a pre-cinematic device, a type of optical toy. Usually a round disk is attached to a string with a picture on either side. Make the disk spin and the images are superimposed, or look like one image. It is a form of montage, a magic trick, an illusion.
• Thaumatrope - The word, thaumatrope, means turning wonder in Greek.
• PERSISTENCE OF VISION! - When your eye sees an object, your mind’s eye holds on to a picture of that object for a fraction of a second while it “talks” with the brain. This is why sometimes you see an object for a split second after it is gone if you close your eyes. This phenomenon is known as Persistence of Vision. As you spin the thaumatrope disc, you can see each picture long enough to have two images merge into one.
• Flipbook – A flip book is a book with a series of pictures that vary gradually from one page to the next, so that when the pages are turned rapidly, the pictures appear to animate by simulating motion or some other change.
• Animation - The act, process, or result of imparting life, interest, spirit, motion, or activity. The quality or condition of being alive, active, spirited, or vigorous. The art or process of preparing animated cartoons.

Modeling/Instruction - Thaumatrope:
• Show students examples. One good example is a bird on one side of the image and a cage on the other. When the images are spun on the thaumatrope, the images look like one.
• In their sketch books, have students plan what their final thaumatrope image will be and how they will split the image in two.
• Cut an index card in half.
• Draw one part of the image on one card.
• Using a light table or outline the original image in dark ink, have students place the second, blank, half index card on top of the first one. Draw the second part of the image, lining up the edges of the index cards. Make sure the image composition is centered and neat.
• The image should be, neat, done in colored pencil and the outlines inked in black Sharpie marker.
• Take a skewer and glue it to the back middle of one of the index card halves. The skewer should stick out of the bottom of the image like a lollipop.
• Glue the second side of the index card to the back side of the first index card half, making sure the edges line up. The images should be facing away from each other and both right side up.
• Student s should test the thaumatrope by spinning the skewer in their hands and making sure the images are lined up and the two images blend together to look like one picture in the end. If the superimposition looks good, let the thaumatrope dry.
• Allow students time to work on their own, help and observe their progress, answering questions as they arise.

Modeling/Instruction - Flipbook:
• Review Persistence of Vision and how the thaumatrope worked.
• Show students examples of flip books, how to hold it and flip the pages, and how each image is slightly different on each card.
• Show students how the imagery is very simple in their imagery and movement, and that students should keep their flip books simple as well.
• In their sketchbooks students should plan their flip book by drawing a thumbnail sized version of what the 48 frames (48 Ό sheets of typing paper) will look like.
• Show students the flip book process: Students draw one image on the first page to start the flip book. Then place another page on top of the last image to draw the next image, making sure to line up the left an bottom edges of the pages for “registration” purposes. Students should continue to place new pages with the image changing slightly until they get to the last of the 48 pages.
• When finished, students should use colored pencil to color imagery and use Sharpie to create outlines.
• To test, students hold the booklet firmly with one hand then should then flip the pages through their fingers to see how the animation is working.
• Finally, the teacher should set up a camera stand and camera connected to a computer that uses a video editing/capturing software, such as Stop Motion Pro, and show students how to set up the preferences to be working at 12 frames per second (film is 24 frames per second (fps)). Students should capture their 48 frames, save the work using their last name and first initial, and view the work to see how the animation works. At 12 frames per second, the end product should be 4 seconds.
• Allow students time to work on their own, help and observe their progress, answering questions as they arise.

Final Review:
• When students turn in their thaumatropes and flip books, they should turn in their self evaluations as well.
• Lead students in a critique session to help everyone learn from each other.
• At the end of the lessons have a day where you review the concepts and have a film festival to show the entire class the work either on the computer or show on the “big screen” using a projector.

Clean Up:
Students should keep their work in their sketchbook folders. Students should sweep the tables with brushes and dust pans so tables can be clean for the next class to come in and use. Students should throw away any garbage.

Persistence of Vision: Your eye and brain retain a visual impression for about 1/30th of a second. (The exact time depends on the brightness of the image.) Persistence of vision accounts for our failure to notice that a motion picture screen is dark about half the time, and that a television image is just one bright, fast, little dot sweeping the screen. Motion pictures show one new frame every 1/24th of a second. Each frame is shown three times during this period. The eye retains the image of each frame long enough to give us the illusion of smooth motion.

Animation - The act, process, or result of imparting life, interest, spirit, motion, or activity. The quality or condition of being alive, active, spirited, or vigorous. The art or process of preparing animated cartoons.

Thaumatrope - A card with pictures on either side: a card with different pictures on either side so that when the card is rapidly twirled, the images appear to combine. [ Early 19th century. < Greek thauma "wonder" + tropos "turning" ]

Flip Book – A book with a series of pictures that vary gradually from one page to the next, so that when the pages are turned rapidly, the pictures appear to animate by simulating motion or some other change.


Student Self Evaluation:
Students will be given a self-evaluation for both projects. Scores for each criteria range from 1-5 (one being the lowest and five being the highest score) with a total of 25 points for each project:
1. Effort/Planning (Did you put good effort into the planning and creation of the project? Did you use class time effectively?)
2. Design/Originality/Composition (Is the design interesting or thought provoking? Is it original and unique? Does the image take good advantage of the space? Is the movement of the animation clear and understandable?)
3. Craftsmanship/Use of materials (Is the final outcome of the project clean and neat?)
4. Concepts/Vocabulary (Do you understand what Persistence of Vision means and what a thaumatrope, and a flip book are? Do you see the relationship between art, science, history, and technology?)
5. Care/Work Habits (Did you work in a responsible manner: keeping the areas you used clean, properly caring for materials used, putting things away, respecting others in the classroom?)
6. Also, write down any questions you might have for the teacher about these projects.

Teacher Assessment:
Students will be assessed on the following criteria with 10 points for each. One grade will be given for the thaumatrope and another for the flipbook.
1. Effort/Planning
2. Design/Originality/Composition
3. Craftsmanship/Use of materials
4. Concepts/Vocabulary (Students will receive a quiz on the vocabulary, and the relationship between art, science, history, and technology.)
5. Care/Work Habits

Students may try to create more than one thaumatrope, flip book, or try to make a cyclical zoetrope strip which could be made into an animated avatar to be viewed on the computer.

• The Animation Book: A Complete Guide to Animated Filmmaking--From Flip-Books to Sound Cartoons to 3- D Animation by Kit Laybourne
• Timing for Animation, Second Edition by John Halas
• Cartoon Animation (The Collector's Series) by Preston Blair
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Art, science, history, technology
Final film festival and critique
Materials: Hi-Def Camcorder, Portable, Televisions, DVD/VCR Players, Wacom Tablets, Art Tools, Video Tools, Camera/Video Accessories, Flash/USB Drives, Tripods, Batteries, Memory Cards, CDs and DVDs, Cables, Authoring and Publishing, Animation