What is a Phonotrope?
The Phonotrope is the term coined by animation director Jim Le Fevre to describe the technique of creating animation in a 'live' environment using the confluence of the frame rate of a live action camera and the revolutions of a constantly rotating disc, predominantly (but not exclusively) using a record player.
It is a contemporary reworking of the zoetrope, one of several pre-film animation devices that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion.
The crucial difference between the technique that the Phonotrope uses and the one a zoetrope uses is that the Phonotrope is specifically an in-camera technique using the frame-rate of a live-action camera set to a high shutter speed in confluence with a constantly rotating disc to create the illusion of movement. In a zoetrope it is the vertical slits around the drum or the flashes of a stroboscope which create the 'interruptions' needed to create the illusion of movement. As such the Phonotrope can only be seen through either the camera's viewfinder, a connected monitor or projector or viewed as footage after the event.
From its inception the most commonly used methods of rotating the disc have been using a record-player however Le Fevre has used a pottery wheel to spin a glazed pot to create animation as well as using a bespoke motor to animate hundreds of cut-out card images on a two-meter-high (6.6 ft) wooden tiered structure for the title sequence for the BBC television comedy film Holy Flying Circus.