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Enhancing the Art of the Zoetrope with 3D Printing in Short Film, ‘re-belief’

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Ray McCarthy Bergeron

Ray McCarthy Bergeron

Animator Ray McCarthy Bergeron has created a short film called re-belief, for his MFA Thesis at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Mixing a truly ancient artistic medium with 3D-printing technology in a stunning, colorful sequence of progressive motions which truly define the art of zoetrope—and 3D-printed ones at that–Bergeron’s re-belief is a story that is supposed to make you ask “if recalling memories can break a cycle.” This artistic display is one of those pieces of art that makes you shake your head in amazement, trying to comprehend how anyone can craft something so intricate, sharing so many moods all at once. It truly is hypnotic and sort of addicting—see if you can stop yourself from hitting the play button on the video more than once!

Bergeron says that he leverages both the creative and technical sides of his brain to solve problems. There could not be a more perfect example of that combination with art and 3D printing, than in the hand-crafted re-belief. The creativity involved is absolutely mesmerizing, and the technical aspect of pulling it all together is even more so. “A personal story told in a cyclical way begs for zoetropes to be used,” said Bergeron. “With a focus on relationships, faith, and love as reoccurring motifs, I wanted to manifest these haunting, memory cycles into physical forms, and the best method was to combine 3D printing with animated zoetropes.”

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A zoetrope is one of several pre-cinema animation devices that produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion. The word zoetrope is a combination of greek terms for ‘life’ and ‘turning.’ Although this medium has literally been around forever, it’s not used all that often, and obviously it takes someone with patience and great talent to create such a thing. The effort pays off though, with a big wow factor.

3D-printed figures for re-belief.

3D-printed figures for re-belief.

“Ultimately, the story thread focuses on cycles, and choosing 3D printed zoetropes as the medium, within a short film, seemed perfect to share a story about childhood, religion and relationships. After all, Zoe translates to life and trope is a reoccurring motif,” says Bergeron. “3D printing, handcrafting and manufacturing these zoetropes symbolize physical representations that become too real in a way. “

It would seem that part of the haunting beauty displayed in re-belief is a direction reflection of a personal experience and memory that the artist is sharing and expressing. The mood vacillates between cheerful and haunting with a dreamlike quality. I think the viewer is left with a certain feeling—but mainly one question: “How in the world did he do that?” This question also seems to be associated with many of the amazing innovations 3D printing is making possible these days.

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This isn’t Bergeron’s first artistic rodeo in terms of doing something mindblowing—he has won multiple awards and has received recognition from the 39th Student Academy Awards, College Television Awards, Adobe Design Achievement Awards, SIGGRAPH, mtvU and RIT’s School of Film and Animation Honor Show for four years in a row.

Bergeron discusses his work on his website, spunkyddog.com, and lists his passionate interest as media art, filmmaking, technology (he is a self-professed “tech guru”), and photography.

You can catch re-belief at the following festivals:

  • Imagine Science Film Festival at State Festival – October 30 – November 2, 2014 (Berlin, Germany)
  • WV Filmmakers Festival – October 3-6, 2014 (Sutton, WV, USA)
  • RIT Honor Show – September 20, 2014 (Rochester, NY, USA)

Will you be going to see the show? Have you combined 3D-printing with your art or a film? Tell us about it in the 3D printed zoetrope forum thread on 3DPB.com.  Check out the video below for a sneak peak of this film.

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