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Still of the Phonotrope 'Squirrels' made by Jim Le Fevre in 2009

The Phonotrope is the term coined by animation director Jim Le Fevre[1] 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[2] 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.[3]

Public appearances[edit]

The earliest public showing of the Phonotrope was in March 2007 at an evening at the Victoria and Albert Museum[4] 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.

In 2008 Le Fevre gave a talk at "Interesting 2008", a series of time-restricted lectures in Holborn, London, organised by Russell Davies [5][6][7]

In 2009 Le Fevre gave a talk on the Phonotrope at the Flatpack Film Festival [8] and in 2010 Le Fevre performed an evening at the ICA with music DJ Malcolm Goldie for the ICA's Heavy Pencil night.[9]

Since 2010 Le Fevre has performed workshops and talks on the Phonotrope nationally [10] and internationally.[11]


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.[1]

In advertising and broadcast[edit]

In 2007 Jim Le Fevre used the Phonotropic technique to create an onscreen ident for MTV called "MTV - Turntable"[12] 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.[13] 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.[2]

Pot created by RAMP Ceramics and Jim Le Fevre. Still taken from camera work by Mike Paterson/Pfilms


External links[edit]