Charles Reynaud, 1877

History | How it works | What became of it | Video Demonstrations
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The praxinoscope, invented in 1877 by the Frenchman Charles Reynaud, was the first device to overcome the picture distortion caused by viewing through moving slots.  The image produced is more brilliant than with any previous devices.  Because of this advance, it quickly replaced the zoetrope in popularity. 

How it works:

A band of pictures is placed inside a shallow outer cylinder, so that each picture is reflected by the inner set of mirrors.  The number of mirrors is equal to the number of pictures, and the images of the pictures are viewed in the mirrors.  When the outer cylinder rotates, the quick succession of reflected pictures gives the illusion of a moving picture. 

What became of it:

Using this principle, Reynaud found a way to project the series of pictures onto a screen.  He called this the "Theatre Optique."  A standard praxinoscope, like the one above, can only accomodate a second or two of animation because of the limited number of pictures it contains.  Reynaud's "Theatre Optique" used a long roll of paper to increase the number of pictures, and was therefore able to create a much longer show for an audience. 


Links to video demonstrations:

Streamed (requires RealPlayer G2 or higher)
Fast connection (T1/LAN/DSL/cable) only
All connections

For higher video quality in a downloadable file
Video for Windows



Background information:

How it works:

How to make your own praxinoscope kit:


Click here to see a side view of the praxinoscope.