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Trapped Bird in a cage – a science experiment that demonstrates how our minds make animated cartoons appear as moving images in our heads.

Bird cages in an art demonstration - Forgotten Songs Installation

Trapped Bird in a cage

Ever wonder how cartoons are created? Basically what happens is the artist draws the cartoon characters in multiple sequential images and presents them to us in a manner that causes our minds to fill in the missing pieces. This experiment helps demonstrate the basic principle of animation.

  1. Draw a picture of a tiger on the index card.
  2. On another card the same size, draw a picture of a cage.
  3. Now tape the two cards, with the drawings facing outwards, on opposite sides of a pencil or pen.
  4. Spin the pencil between your hands or fingers.

Does the tiger appear to be trapped in the cage? It appears to be caged because of how your eyes and brain work. When you see the image of the tiger, your brain holds onto the image for a short time–even though the image appears and disappears quickly. The same thing happens with the image of the cage. The two images overlap in your brain so the tiger appears to be in the cage.

Animation artists follow this same process to create cartoons. But rather than use just two images (in our case, the tiger was one image and the cage another), animation is composed of many different images, all drawn in such a manner to suggest motion to our minds.

How the illusion of animation works

Animation is the process of creating the illusion of motion and change by displaying a sequence of static images that minimally differ from each other. These images are called frames, and when they are displayed in rapid succession, they give the appearance of movement.

There are several types of animation techniques, including traditional hand-drawn animation, stop-motion animation, computer-generated animation, and motion graphics. Each technique has its unique approach, but they all follow a similar principle of creating the illusion of movement through a series of frames.

In hand-drawn animation, artists create each frame by hand, drawing them on transparent sheets called cels. The cels are then layered on top of each other, and a camera captures each layer to create the final animation.

Stop-motion animation involves creating physical models or puppets and capturing each movement with a camera. The models or puppets are moved slightly between each shot, and when the shots are played back in sequence, they give the impression of movement.

Computer-generated animation uses specialized software to create and manipulate digital models and environments. The software allows animators to create complex movements and actions that would be challenging to achieve with traditional animation techniques.

Experiment Supplies

Supplies: Pencil, Tape, Index card

Image Credits

In-Article Image Credits

Bird cages in an art demonstration - Forgotten Songs Installation via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 29, 2016

Featured Image Credit

Bird cages in an art demonstration - Forgotten Songs Installation via Wikimedia Commons with usage type - Creative Commons License. August 29, 2016


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