Flipbook Animation
By Gary Ferrington

A flipbook is a simple form of animation consisting of a sequence of drawings, or photographs, that when "flipped" through by the viewer appear to create the illusion of motion.

This illusion is an optical phenomenon known as the persistence of vision. It is the result of the eye’s retina retaining an image for about 1/12 of a second. When successive images are shown at a faster rate, the eye will blend them together with the retina retaining one image as the second is superimposed over it. This creates the illusion of movement and is the fundamental principle involved in film and television recording and reproduction. Sound movies have been traditionally projected at 24 frames per second or faster making the illusion of movement very smooth.

Early photographic pioneers such as Edward Muybridge and Thomas Edison explored moving images using the flipbook concept. Still photographic images were mounted on stiff paper and when either flipped through by hand or later in a hand cranked arcade machine. The Kinetoscope and Mutoscope used the flipbook concept and became popular pre-movie entertainment media for many.

Filpbooks were popularized in the early 1900's by the Crackerjack company that gave them as in-box prizes. In the 1920's they were used to teach dance steps - an early form of the "educational movie".

Flipbooks have been an important tool for the teaching of animation and remain so today. An idea for animation can be quickly tested using the flipbook technique.

Flipbooks stories are never very long and usually have a single objective that can best be put across short animated movies. Flipbooks are a true form of microcinema.

The following links cover the history flipbooks, techniques, and examples.

Drawings That Move-Flip Books. Flipbooks show how drawings can be made that seem to move. It is also a way to practice animation drawing.This site provides a nice overview of how to produce flipbooks.

FlipCapsule. Produces commercial flipbooks for promotional purposes. Images are captured from video and turned into flipbooks for advertising, sporting events, trade show handouts, and other events.

Flipbooks. This site sells flip books but also provides the opportunity to explore a number of sample animations designed by animator Patrick Jenkins. The samples illustrate how flipbooks can be an expressive form of communication.

Flipbooks - the Ancestors of Micromovies. "In the 19th century, before the cinema culture had established its position, there were various flipbooks, notepads bound together and flipped through to view a short string of moving pictures: animations of sort."

Flipbooks: Handheld Animations. Provides background information about flipbooks and gives instructions on how to make them using digital images.

Flippies is a company that makes flipbooks for creative premiums, event handouts, sports promotions and trade show giveaways. This site provides some examples of how flipbooks can be used for commercial purposes.

Filptomania. This company designs and produces flipbooks. The site has a variety of flipbooks presented as quicktime movies. Give them a try!

History of Filpbooks. The site provides a comprehensive history of the flip book.

Post-It Theater. These movies are all hand-drawn on Post-it® brand notes and scanned. No computer simulated the action.

Windows to the Universe Flip Books. This flip book series was produced to celebrate Sun-Earth Day (April 27-28, 2001). They were developed in partnership with Dr. Janet Kozyra at the University of Michigan, Space Physics Research Lab. Simply print the pages for a flipbooks, cut out each, arrange them in order and staple.


American Museum of the Moving Image. Select item - Shutters, Sprockets, and Tubes. This consists of six animated interactive tutorials that explain the science and technology behind movies and television. The tutorial on The Illusion of Motion facilitates an understanding of the concept of persistence of vision and how we see moving images.

Image source: Flipomania