Flipbooks for a Change!
For a bit of photofun you might try experimenting with a technique which is
not normally tried with photographs but which has enjoyed great popularity as
cartoon art over the years. The flipbook or cartoon is commonly found printed
on the top right hand corner of numerous comic books. Flip art consists of a
sequence, generally of a comical kind, printed in the upper right hand corner
of a variety of books or magazines which allow you to experience the sense of
time and motion by the simple expedient of flipping the pages rapidly from
front to back. The clear purpose of most of these flipbooks is to amuse. I
propose that there may be more serious applications for the technique
Flipbooks or stories are never very long. As mentioned above, they have a
single objective in mind which can best be put accross if the elements of time
and motion are physically perceived by the viewer. They are simply short
animated features. With this in mind it is conceivable that in many
photographic situations the flipbook may be an invaluable addition to standard
photographic methods as a conveyor of information. It is more informative than
a still shot and much cheaper than a motion picture. It has it's place in the
business of communication as an adjunct to standard techniques. It may be the
one technique that completes the "picture" when other techniques prove to be to
complex or too costly to use. It is surprising that it is not thought of more
First of all, in order to determine whether a flipbook is an appropriate
technique to use in a given situation you must be able to answer "yes" to all
of these questions:
1.Can the action which I want to convey be illustrated in a 2 to 4 second period?
2.Can I secure about 36 pictures of the action which I want to explain?
3.Will the extra feeling of motion and passage of time add something of value
to the effort?
Assuming that you can answer positively to these questions you should probably
proceed to make a flipbook of the event. It may not serve its intended purpose
but at least it will generate more conversation and interest than you can
possibly imagine at this time.
There are a few obvious facts which you should keep in mind as you start out on
this project. First will be the format. Believe it or not 35 mm is usually
quite sufficient a size and you can shoot your sequence either as horizontals
or verticals. Once you decide on one format, however, you can't change it. You
should keep in mind some of the principles of time lapse photography and
animation as you produce the sequence. Your subject should not traverse large
distances across the frame from shot to shot. It should take about 24 to 30
pictures for something to move from one side of the scene to the other. If it
takes less time the motion may appear too fragmented. Assuming that you will
make a sequence of 36 pictures, the time between each of your pictures, should
be equal to the time it takes your subject to complete its action divided by
36. Obviously, if the action takes place in a short time you may not be able to
take the pictures at a fast enough rate unless you use a motor or winder on
On the other hand, the time between pictures may be too long for taking the
sequence comfortably. In this case an intervalometer can be a decided asset.
For example, if you were to photograph the opening sequence of a flower in
bloom, the time between pictures may be anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes or more.
If you are "animating" a sequence, then simply make your action move so that it
covers its intended pattern in 36 individual moves. Remember that the amount of
movement of the subject should at most generally be 1/10 or less of the longest
frame dimension or frame size.
Now that you have generated a roll of film with a progressive pattern of
images, you need to simply assemble them in order and staple them in sequence.
An industrial duty stapler will work best to do the stapling through the 36
prints. To get the best effect, you should keep in mind a few simple facts:
1. Registration is of paramount importance. The best way to insure accurate
registration is to use the edges of the picture area or some other mark which
remains in the same relative position from image to image, as the registration
reference mark. For example one registration reference mark could be the edge
of the film, if you are making contact prints. Either of the other two edges of
the frame, at right angles to the film edge, can be the second reference mark.
Reference marks must remain in the same position from frame to frame in order
for them to be useful. The purpose of these reference marks is to make it easy
to register the set of prints by simply tapping their edges against a hard
surface, forcing them to become flush with each other. Once registered and
stapled your flipbook story will flow much more smoothly.
2. Certain papers seem to work better than others. For contact print size
images, single weight paper seems to work best. Medium weight paper is quite
appropriate for print sizes larger than contact prints. Enlargements are
probably best handled if printed on double weight paper. Do not make the
enlargements too great. The prints should not be larger than about 2"x 3" for
comfortable handling. Do not mount the prints because this generally will only
compound your registration problems.
3. As you make the prints make sure that you allow enough room for the border
which will be stapled. While it is possible to make a complete flipbook
sequence on as little as a single sheet of 8x10 paper it might be more
convenient to make two contact sheets with the negatives offset by one image
from one sheet to the next. This allows you to use one row of images as a
longer border though which the staple will go. If you make small enlargements
allow sufficient room at one side for the staple.
4. Make about five extra prints of the first and last frames of your sequence.
When added to the beginning and end of your flipbook sequence they will provide
a smoth introduction and ending to the scene because it is difficult to get the
prints to start to flip evenly and it is equally difficult to perceive the last
bit of action if it extends to the very last frame.
5. If you opt for a feature within your image to be your point of reference or
registration guide, then make yourself a registration jig by stapling a clear
sheet of plastic or acetate onto a board. After sliding the first picture of
the sequence under the plastic outline or mark with a waterproof pen those
areas which must remain in the same place from shot to shot. Then, add edge
reference marks around these to transfer to each of the pictures in the
sequence. After marking them in series cut the edges as needed. Finally, tap
the edges into register and staple the set together. This will result in the
foreground image remaining stationary while the backgound moves about or
viceversa...or something like it.
I don't have a conclusion to this! ;-)
By the way, if you don't think that a simple "gadget" such as a flipbook can
impress or motivate or be at least a conversation piece note that some people are making
a business out of flipbooks and one commercial outfit that manufactures them and
provides general advice about making them is flippies.com