"Zoetrope" is more than just a basic 19-point word in Scrabble. It's pretty much the great granddaddy of today's animation. The zoetrope used a simple cylinder to create the illusion of movement with still images. Xbox, in their new short Forza FilmSpeed, used a McLaren 12C and 680 stills from Forza Motorsport 5 to create to world's fastest zoetrope. How far we've come. Let's take a look at the mechanics of zoetropes from their humble beginnings through their role in today's most life-like driving games.
Invented back in 1834 by William Horner, the zoetrope (originally called a Daedalum) was a fairly simple device that turned static pictures into fluid visions of wonder. Small illustrations were placed equal distances apart inside the bottom of an open drum. Thin vertical slits ran along the entire sides of the device, just above the pictures. When spun, the static illustrations gave off the illusion of motion; the faster they went, the more fluid the animation. Multiple people could view the animation from any angle around the zoetrope, too. It was short. It was simple. It was mind-blowingly cool. Not quite better than the invention of fire, but creating a whole new moving world out of thin air was nothing short of magic at the time.
Video game developers have embraced the same motion concept — the higher the frame rate (or how quickly images are refreshed), the smoother the graphics. At the same time, maintaining a consistent frame rate is just as important. That's what Forza FilmSpeed is all about. Xbox One and Forza Motorsport 5, with its incredible visuals clocked at a steady 60 frames per second, are taking video game graphics and realism one giant evolutionary leap forward.
How do you show that leap in the real world? Well, for one, you take a McLaren 12C moving at up to 120mph, mount a Phantom Flex camera on it, and precisely capture Forza in all its high-speed glory. Each image was shot at a rate of 30fps, and though that's half the frame rate of FM5, none of the beauty is lost. Imagine seeing the game for yourself. This film, starring stunt driver Tanner Foust and that gorgeous McLaren, shows how games like Forza Motorsport 5 have the ability to push boundaries further than anyone's ever imagined. Check out the video above to see how they pulled this massive zoetrope off.
Jalopnik emeritus Ray Wert worked with the production team on this little project, and he's here to answer all your burning questions about how Forza FilmSpeed came to life. Ask away in the comments below!
Andrew Kardon is a professional freelance writer who covers everything from video games to health care.