Produced exclusively for Newspapers In Education

Bringing Movie, TV, and Cartoon Images to Life
In the 1890s, when movies were new, people sometimes ran screaming from theaters when pictures of locomotives or ocean waves seemed to come at them on the screen. Back then, the new-fangled "moving picture" looked a whole lot like the real thing. Today, we know a movie isn't real. It's just a series of tiny pictures printed on a plastic strip with holes along the side. The holes catch on little wheels that pull the film through a projector. Then a light shines through the film to project the images onto a screen.

What makes a movie move?
Look carefully and you'll see that each picture on a movie or cartoon film strip is slightly different from the one before and after it. When the film is projected, all those little images go by so fast you never get a chance to see each one separately before the next one comes along. Instead, your eyes and brain "hang on" to each image for a moment, making all the little pictures smear together in what looks like continuous motion. This effect is called "persistence of vision."


Want to see the comics come to life?
1. Check out the comics section of The Chronicle to find 2 cool cartoon images that go together. (You can also draw your own 2-image series, or cut out the ones here.)
2. Tape the pictures back-to-back on either side of a pencil, as shown. (Straws and pens work, too.)
3. Now roll the pencil back and forth between your hands and—thanks to persistence of vision—you'll see your Comic Strip Flip Stick spring into action!

Ready for something a little more challenging? Make a Flip Book!
Draw or collect a series of little pictures: Comic strip images from the Sunday paper are perfect. (You may want to paste them on paper first to make them flip better.) Stack up your pictures, clamp one edge with one of those black squeezy clip things, and then flip quickly through from top to bottom to see your pictures move.



©2001 The Exploratorium