The Phonotrope is the term coined by animation director Jim Le Fevre to describe the technique of creating animation in a 'live' environment using the confluence of the frame rate of a live action camera and the revolutions of a constantly rotating disc, predominantly (but not exclusively) using a record player.
It is a contemporary reworking of the zoetrope, one of several pre-film animation devices that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion.
The crucial difference between the technique that the Phonotrope uses and the one a zoetrope uses is that the Phonotrope is specifically an in-camera technique using the frame-rate of a live-action camera set to a high shutter speed in confluence with a constantly rotating disc to create the illusion of movement. In a zoetrope it is the vertical slits around the drum or the flashes of a stroboscope which create the 'interruptions' needed to create the illusion of movement. As such the Phonotrope can only be seen through either the camera's viewfinder, a connected monitor or projector or viewed as footage after the event.
From its inception the most commonly used methods of rotating the disc have been using a record-player however Le Fevre has used a pottery wheel to spin a glazed pot to create animation as well as using a bespoke motor to animate hundreds of cut-out card images on a two meter high wooden tiered structure for the title sequence for the BBC television comedy film Holy Flying Circus.
The earliest public showing of the Phonotrope was in March 2007 at an evening at the Victoria and Albert Museum where Jim Le Fevre presented the process to members of the public as part of a 'Friday Late' event. Footage from the event was posted on YouTube in 2008.
The term Phonotrope was coined in 2010 by Jim Le Fevre having previously termed his version of the technique the Phonographanstasmascope as a nod to the convoluted names of other early forms of pre-film animation such as its ancestor the zoetrope, the praxinoscope and the zoopraxiscope and realised it was too cumbersome to use.
In advertising and broadcast
In 2007 Jim Le Fevre used the Phonotropic technique to create an onscreen ident for MTV called "MTV - Turntable" and in 2010 he created a 2 meter tall Terry Gilliam inspired Phonontrope for the title sequence for the BBC television comedy film Holy Flying Circus. In 2013 Le Fevre (with Rupert and Alice Johnstone from RAMP ceramics) created a Phonotropic film using a pottery wheel for the Crafts Council of England.
- Article on the Phonotrope Wired Magazine May 2010.
- "Experimental Animation Meets Pottery" film commissioned by the Crafts Council by Jim Le Fevre
- Footage of the "Holy Flying Circus" title sequence on Vimeo
- "The Phonotrope (formerly the Phonographantasmascope)" by Jim Le Fevre on YouTube
- The rundown of speakers at Interesting 2008 on Russell Davies' site
- Posting of Le Fevre's Interesting 2008 talk on the Guardian website
- Entire footage of Le Fevre's Interesting 2008 talk on Vimeo
- Posting of a review of the Flatpack 2009 talk on the Flatpack Festival site
- Web archive of Heavy Pencil night at the ICA
- National Saturday Club workshop on Phonotropes and Pottery with Rupert Johnstone from RAMP ceramics
- Levis Film Workshop at the Art in the Streets exhibition in 2010
- "MTV - Turntable" by Jim Le Fevre on Vimeo
- Interview with Jim Le Fevre, on the "Holy Flying Circus" title sequence, on BBC Comedy website
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