Kev Lavery
Training & Liaison Officer

Phénakistiscopes in After Effects

Technical Tutorial Published 8/24/15 Last updated on 3/2/20

This short tutorial will run you through one method of creating a phénakistiscope in After Effects. A phénakistiscope is a primitive animation device. Looking back through the history of motion picture and animation we often see many of those pushing it forward were from the science and maths disicplines. There are a lot of STEAM concepts to be explored through this lens (no pun intended).

edit: the attached guide refers to them as zoetropes but they're probably closer to phénakistiscopes ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Definition of phénakistiscopes from wikipedia:

The phénakistiscope usually comes in the form of a spinning cardboard disc attached vertically to a handle. Arrayed radially around the disc's center is a series of pictures showing sequential phases of the animation. Small rectangular apertures are spaced evenly around the rim of the disc. The user would spin the disc and look through the moving slits at the images reflected in a mirror. The scanning of the slits across the reflected images keeps them from simply blurring together so that the user can see a rapid succession of images that appear to be a single moving picture.

When there is the same number of images as slots, the images will animate in a fixed position, but will not drift across the disc. Fewer images than slots and the images will drift in the opposite direction to that of the spinning disc. More images than slots and the images will drift in the same direction as the spinning disc.[9]

Unlike the zoetrope and other successors, common versions of the phénakisticope could only practically be viewed by one person at a time.

This tutorial will run you through techniques and skills associated with imitating this effect in After Effects. It is a good way to get your head around the concepts of frame rates and how these can be adjusted for specific effects.

Use this for converting your completed phénakistiscopes into a GIF

Some cool examples (some phénakistiscopes, some zoetropes, some zoopraxiscopes):

Traceloops (the master of hand drawn animation)

Embroidered Zoetrope

Plastic Infinite

The Cyclotrope


  • Photoshop

    Editing and compositing for photos, web and mobile app designs, 3D artwork, videos, and more.

  • After Effects

    Create motion graphics and visual effects for film, TV, video, and web.


Computer and After Effects

- although this task can be extended to hand drawn in which case you'll need a printer, a scanner and whatever art supplies you wish

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Shafiq Rehman

Posted on 10/6/19 7:23:54 PM Permalink

Thanks for sharing

Aziz Soubai

Posted on 6/20/18 1:14:17 AM Permalink

Thanks for sharing your resources

Gary bass

Posted on 2/28/16 1:29:09 AM Permalink

Kev Lavery

Posted on 1/12/16 10:52:45 AM Permalink

Joel Aarons

Posted on 8/31/15 9:23:09 AM Permalink

Looks great, Kev! Can't wait to try it!

Kev Lavery

Posted on 8/29/15 10:39:31 PM Permalink

Melbourne artist Neil Sanders' Praxinoscope:

Kev Lavery

Posted on 8/28/15 11:30:21 PM Permalink