Original Physical Computing Proposal

Aims/subject of the proposal

What is the nature of the work you are proposing?

My aim this semester is to build a series of motorised stroboscopes which will be used for the presentation of my third year major work. These machines will be standalone, battery-powered objects controlled using the Arduino microcontroller interface.

What is the subject matter of the work?

The theme of my work is to investigate the use of unconventional media in animation. Not to be confused with stop motion animation which invites an endless variety of media, I am instead interested in repurposing media to follow and use it in the same context as traditional animation. In this instance, I will be using embroidery in place of drawing or printing to illustrate a disc, similar to the Phenakistokope, Zoopraxiscope and Stamfer Disc layouts.

How many works do you intend to produce for this project?

I anticipate this to be a ongoing path of study which I will continue beyond this semester, and am therefore open to much experimentation and numerous iterations. Much like the relationship between VHS cassettes and VCRs, and between CDs and CD players, the stroboscopes I will build will be able to supports numerous, interchangeable embroidered discs. Therefore, if I was to adopt more modern terminology, the embroidered discs are a ‘removable media’ which the Arduino-driven stroboscopes will ‘play’.

By the end of the semester, I aim to build at least two stroboscopes, each of which will be able to play any of the embroidered discs I produce for my major.

Research/working process

What’s the historical or conceptual basis for your ideas?

How will you go about developing these ideas, and what visual material and other research will be involved?

Methods and materials

What methods and materials do you intend to use?

Each stroboscope will be controlled using Arduino compatible microcontrollers. Up until now, I have been experimenting and testing using the JeeNode microcontroller, but I will purchase a much smaller and simpler device once I am at the build stage.

There are two main aspects to these stroboscopes, the first of which is a motor to spin the discs. The motors I have chosen to use are stepper motors as they will provide me with greater precision than some other types of motors. Stepper motors also require a intermediary piece of hardware called a motor driver which converts the data sent from the Arduino into the appropriate electrical signals to control the stepper motor. The second element to the stroboscopes is a series of bright LEDs which will be turned on and off at a fixed time interval. This strobing effect will be timed with the relevant increments on the disc and will play with the viewer’s persistence of vision to create the illusion of movement.

What new skills do you need to develop?


Give an outline and plan of your work in relation to the time available

Visual Materials

Provide drawings, diagrams, related visual and research material which may be useful in developing your proposal.

zoetrope_sketch01 zoetrope_sketch02