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A magic lantern could animate a tale, or could change in response to sensor values.

Magic Lanterns

I became interested in making magic lanterns at an animation workshop. A magic lantern is basically a light that projects an image onto a screen. I've been trying to figure out how to create a landscape scene that changes.
- Margaret
stuff you need
  • Cricket
  • Mini-lights clipped to longer wires with alligator clips (see Lights page)
  • A piece of 1-inch high insulation foam
  • Scissors or other knife for cutting the foam
  • shoe box or other small- to medium- size box.
  • Translucent paper (like tracing paper)
  • Transparent paper (like overhead transparency paper)
  • Permanent markers
  • Tape
  • Glue
Start by making a lantern. I found that a 4- to 6-inch tube worked best. I cut a piece of white paper the same height as the tube, and rolled it and put it inside to help reflect light. You can tape the paper in place if it slides.
Next, make a holder that aims the lantern toward the screen. Cut a small piece of insulation foam (about 4 inches square). I traced the end of the tube in the center of the foam, and cut out the hole.
Fit the tube into the foam holder so that the end of the tube is flush with the front of the foam. See how the lantern sits at a little bit of an angle?
Draw a picture on a small piece of clear Mylar or transparency paper. Permanent markers (like Sharpies) work well. You may have to experiment to see which images work best: the first pumpkin I drew was too large. The image needs to be smaller than the end of your tube.
Tape your drawing to the foam, centering it on the lantern opening.
Add light to your lantern. Mini-lights (Christmas lights) connected to a battery or Cricket with alligator clips work great. For now, just rest the lights inside the lantern.
Next, make your screen. I used a shoe box, but it is pretty wobbly because the cardboard is so thin. Cut the front off the box, leaving a border around the front to which you can tape or glue the screen.
Next, set the box on the piece of tracing paper or translucent Mylar and trace the box. Then cut the paper.
Glue or tape the paper across the opening on the box. (If your paper is slick, tape may stick better.)

To make an animated image make two lanterns and draw two images and have the lanterns switch on and off in sequence

For the magic lantern on the top of this page, I used a colored bulb. I made the landscape sillouette out of black paper and taped it to the front of the screen.

We tried out the magic lanterns in the galleries at the Science Museum. Kids drew on pieces of transparency paper, then taped their drawings to the lantern to see them projected!
What else
See magical lanterns and other wonderful devices
Read about making scratch animation
Learn to make a Cricket-controlled light

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