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OctoMadness: An incredible 3D-printed zoetrope

Wacky characters come to life through 64 3D-printed figures on a spinning carousel -- a traditional zoetrope in full 3D.

The classics meet new tech. Klaas-Harm de Boer

One of the earliest forms of animation was the zoetrope, a child's toy that, like a flipbook, provided the illusion of motion.

A successive series of images making small changes in the position of the subject was pasted inside a cylinder that spun on a plate, very much like a series of animation stills. Peering through slits in the cylinder as it spun kept the images from blurring together, creating an image that appeared to move.

It is this object upon which Amsterdam-based animator Klaas-Harm de Boer of studio WaterMelon has modelled OctoMadness, a 3D-printed delight of sculptural animation, in collaboration with 3D printing company Leapfrog.

"Inspired by Pixar and Ghibli and their desire to turn animation into something real, WaterMelon challenged themselves to build a 3D printed Zoetrope for the 2014 KLIK Animation Festival," WaterMelon wrote on its website.

"The OctoMadness is a combination of 3D animation, 3D printing, sawing, painting and gluing every piece together. It really embodies all of the things that WaterMelon loves to do."

The surreal structure, calling to mind wacky cartoons of the '30s and '40s, is made from 64 3D-printed figures on four tiers: a single octopus with way more than eight tentacles on the top, a skateboarding goldfish-like creature, a woman with an expanding-contracting body, and a long-legged grey creature. Each figure was printed in 23 "frames" of motion.

Details of the figures, and a top-down view of the zoetrope. Klaas-Harm de Boer

Creating this wasn't easy. First, the team had to animate each character with 3D software, breaking down each simple, repeated motion into models that could be 3D printed. Each of these models was then printed at Leapfrog and shipped back to WaterMelon, where each was painted by hand. The base was also sawed, constructed and painted by hand, then mounted on a spinning turntable.

In order to create the break between "frames" that allows the illusion of motion, the zoetrope must be viewed in strobe lighting. The flashing light causes the figures to appear to move.

OctoMadness was displayed at the 2014 Klik Animation Festival at the Eye film museum in Amsterdam in October. Last month, the OctoMadness creators posted a new video about its creation.

"For many...it was the first time they had seen an installation like this and it was great to see their surprised reactions," de Boer wrote on his website.