These animations are more than 150 years old.

These animations are more than 150 years old.

It's funny. it's really interesting.

in the 19th century, artists made their paintings alive with optical tools such as western mirrors, turntable moving mirrors, phantom turntables and other grotesque household items. (photo Source: Richard Balzer/Brian Duffy)

Richard Balzer collected some illustrations for turntable moving mirrors and western mirrors, and he and Brian Duffy digitized these works and made them into GIF pictures. (photo Source: Richard Balzer/Brian Duffy)

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the turntable moving mirror is a device invented by Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau, which was originally used in scientific research. (photo Source: Richard Balzer/Brian Duffy)

the device consists of a disk with a 16-frame picture. When people look at the mirror inside, they turn the disk, and then the cracks in the disk operate like blinds, bringing the static picture to life. (photo Source: Richard Balzer/Brian Duffy)

Duffy digitizes a roll of 2-to 3-foot-long western mirror illustrations, turning it into a single cycle of animation. (photo Source: Richard Balzer/Brian Duffy)

A western mirror. (photo source: Richard Balzer)

illustrations used in western mirrors. (photo source: Richard Balzer)

Buzzfeed uploaded the first GIF picture of a cat, and people were fascinated by circular animation more than 150 years ago. Of course, there was no PS or screenshot to make GIF images, and there was no Tumblrs or Twitter to share these wonderful works. However, artists bring their pictures into their lives with optical tools such as western mirrors, turntable moving mirrors, phantom turntables and other grotesque household items.

by using a variety of low-tech tricks, these pre-film-era devices made everything come true, and crude optical tools became the ancestors of modern GIF. "We all like to see images of movement," Richard Balzer said. "although times were different, they had the same challenges as we do today. That is, how do you get things moving? "

Balzer can be called an optical equipment enthusiast. For decades, the Boston editor has collected a large number of western mirrors, turntable motion lenses, early projectors and other optical accessories. More than 30 years ago, on a trip to England, Balzer bought his first projector and got out of control. "earlier, I was not a collector," he said. "but I feel like I'm deeply in love with them." They can make a picture or illustration dance like magic. "I've never seen anything like this." He recalled.

as soon as I returned to the United States, Balzer began to collect it carefully. In the end, his entire garage was used to store hundreds of optical instruments. Over the past five years, Balzer has begun digitizing its collection and uploading it to its online museum, the Richard Balzer collection. The site, which is full of illustrations, charts, pictures and flash animations, brings visitors into a little-known world of optical devices.

however, if you don't belong to a handful of deep fans of optical devices, it will be a little difficult when you visit Balzer's website. Here's the problem. "I think these collections should be shared," he said. "I want to come up with something vivid so that people might like it."

so the question is: nowadays people like to see a cat wearing shark clothes and riding on a floor-sweeping robot, how can you get them interested in old animated toys? "the simplest answer is to show them what the toys look like," Balzer said. "not in static form, but in cartoons." As a result, Balzer hired Brain Duffy, a young animator from Los Angeles. He helped Balzer digitize and animate illustrations of turntable moving mirrors and western mirrors.

in the past two years, Duffy has uploaded some bizarre and fascinating GIF images to Balzer's Tumblr. This gives people born long after the heyday of optical equipment a chance to see what cartoons looked like a century ago.

Duffy began by digitizing the illustrations of turntable moving mirrors, a device invented by Joseph Plateau, a Belgian physicist in the early 1830s. It consists of a wooden stick and a rotatable disc about 10-20 inches in diameter, with a series of illustrations and equidistant cracks on the outer edge.

the viewer needs to stand in front of a mirror. When he looked in through the crack, he asked Synchronize to turn the disc, and the pattern on the disc rotated around the axis. When the pattern passes through the crack, it forms a shutter-like effect, and the still pattern becomes a circular animation.

at first, the turntable moving mirror was invented by Joseph Plateau for scientific research, but it was soon turned into a form of entertainment by the public. "he is not only a scientist, but also very creative." This is how Balzer describes Plateau. "if you see his design, you will find how modern and interesting it is."

the disc of a group of turntable moving lenses. (picture source: Richard Balzer)

when these patterns are converted to GIF, in order to ensure their correct action frequency, Duffy needs to scan the illustrations of each western mirror and turntable moving mirror into the PS software, sort by frame, and control the frequency through the cracks in the illustration. He works with Balzer to ensure that the speed of animation is consistent with the actual rotation speed of optical instruments. "We can't make it too fast or too slow," Balzer said. "We've done a lot of experiments to that end."

they easily convert these illustrations into GIF. Although what these two optical instruments do is only a simulation, these images prove their impact on modern animation. In addition, Duffy says, digital processing makes the illustrations what they want them to be. "the level of manipulation you see is digital," he said. He also explained that turning these optical tools will eventually result in different animation speeds each time. "it's not what animators expected at first, but we think it's great, and we seem to be discovering the essence of it in many ways."