The Mill NY Goes Retro With the “Christmill” Zoetrope Tree
Friday, December 09, 2011
The Mill employees are no strangers to technology. Every
day they are dreaming up new ways to stretch the boundaries of the
latest imaging software--from Nuke, Maya and Flame, to After
Effects and Flash. Perhaps that's why this holiday
season they have decided to take it back to a simpler time and
create The Mill's first zoetrope Christmas tree!
What is a zoetrope? It is a device that produces the illusion of
action from a rapid succession of static pictures. A cylinder with
slots cut vertically around the outside houses a band of images
from a set of sequenced drawings or photographs. As the cylinder
spins, the viewer looks through the openings at the pictures on the
opposite side of the cylinder's interior. The viewer sees a rapid
succession of images producing the illusion of motion: the
equivalent of a motion picture.
The tree, conceptualized by The Mill NY Creative Director Rama
Allen, stands over six feet tall and combines geometric style with
an impressive three-layer zoetrope. "I wanted to create something
that felt charming, had a sense of discovery and wonder about it,
and felt rooted to the warmth of the holidays," says Allen. "I
chose the earliest form of the moving image and visual story
telling because it is the foundation of what we at the Mill live
and breathe every day. The story within the three-stage zoetrope is
a 'loop of loops' with... a story of constant creation and
Each layer is a different size and the number of slots and their
spacing was mathematically calculated to determine the picture size
and number of images that would provide a smooth, flowing motion
picture animated by The Mill's Design department.
The tree is powered by a belt-driven record player set at 44
rpms. "The player was hotwired so it could function without
its arm," explains The Mill NY runner and tree builder Mike
Wasserman. "We added wings to the border of the player before
covering it with tinfoil. Lights were layered and reflected
from underneath the zoetrope to provide additional light and
eliminate the shadows from the more powerful overhead light."
The result is a cute Holiday story. A Yeti smashes snowmen in
the clouds to create snow (and carrot noses!) that fall to the
bottom where another Yeti makes more snowmen that will travel back
to the clouds.
The tree is on display on the 6th floor of the New
York office until the end of December.