The persistence of vision - history, innovation and inventions.
Get an understanding of the complete timeline of ‘POV’ and its use in animation, with our journey from past to present.
Peter Mark Roget, an English-Swiss physicist, formally identified persistence of vision in the 1800s. He referred to it as an eye defect, where objects in motion appear still at a certain speed.
Later inventions, including the phenakistoscope, showed that presenting individual images at a fast speed also creates the illusion of movement.
2. Scopes, tropes - and Victorian endeavour
Simultaneously invented in 1832 by Joseph Plateau in Brussels and Simon von Stampfer in Berlin (although the latter named the device a ‘Stroboscope’), the phenakistoscope became one of the earliest forms of animation and proven to be a popular Victorian parlour toy.
A phenakistoscope was a circular disc with individual drawings, which used the persistence of vision principle - as when the disc was spun, the drawings appeared to be moving.
The zoetrope, which followed the same principle but in a cylindrical shape, ultimately became even more popular and influential with Victorian audiences however. This rotating device boasts stripes with individual images, displayed inside a cylinder container with slits.
3. Disney embraces the phenomenon, to create a phenomenon
The same persistence of vision principles are evident in the earliest form of influential, hugely popular Disney animations. Working in the first half of the 20th century, the studio built upon earlier innovations to pioneer the traditional form of animation known as ‘cel animation’ - where characters are drawn on celluloid paper.
Animators sketched out each frame to create a sequence - much like a flipbook. Persistence of vision made the animation come to life and appear to be moving.
4. Modern era
Although creating animations has become far more digitalised, the fundamental core of all animation remains the same. When we watch our favourite animated film at home, it appears to flow seamlessly from one image to the next - even though TVs only show us a new frame every 1/24th of a second!
Roget would surely have been amazed at how ‘POV’ now enables millions of people to enjoy cartoons and anime through platforms like Netflix, each and every day.