Bioscope – old-timey-fy your movies

We met Jon Stam at a Maker Faire last year. With Simon de Bakker, he’s made the Bioscope: a Pi-driven nostalgia machine. Part art project, part toy, it’s extremely simple: upload any digital movie onto a USB stick, pop it in the back of the Bioscope, and peep through the viewfinder.

But rather than just watch the movie play away, you have to move it yourself along by turning the red handle. Pause by stopping the handle, rewind by turning it backwards: and the whole thing has a lovely jerky, old-timey feel to it; the vintage feel underscored by the 3d-printed case, which is based on a copy of an old Fisher Price movie projector toy.

Jon and Simon are using the Bioscope to make an artistic statement about the way we interact with moving visual media. We like it for its satisfying shape and feel, for the way it reminds us of toys we had as kids, and for the cameo appearance of the Numa Numa guy in the above video.

The Bioscope guys have created a custom PCB that sits on top of the Raspberry Pi, which allows you to power the device from a single 3.7v lithium-ion cell. You can find some more technical details of what the custom PCB adds at i.materialise, where Jon and Simon had the case 3-d printed.

Right now, there don’t seem to be any firm plans to commercialise the Bioscope – we hope Jon and Simon do take it in that direction, because there’s something enormously appealing about it. We’ll let you know if we hear anything.


Colin Allison avatar

Shame their source for the origins of Pi are incorrect:

“The RPi, a single board computer (read: a tiny computer) was developed by the University of Manchester and is now used for many creative designs.”

-1 for accuracy guys.

Excellent idea though, the Bioscope.

liz avatar

We *did* notice that. No idea where they got it from!

Colin Allison avatar

Daily Mail? They are usually (not) accurate with their articles. ;-)

Paultnl avatar

All fixed now

Franky avatar

Hi Liz, I corrected that yesterday. No idea how or why Manchester ended up there. Thanks again for putting it on the blog.

The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

Cool project…

My right ear really enjoyed the narration. My left ear felt left out though.

Does everyone have 3D printers now awaydays?

bertwert avatar

My left ear enjoyed the narration and my right ear was left out. :)
(Were you wearing your headphones upside down or placed speakers wrong way round?)

And it seems that everybody has 3D printers, I don’t.

bertwert avatar

Or do you not know your left and rights ;-)

The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

I probably had my headphones round the wrong way!

And yeah… I er… Know my left and rights… er…

Left = >
Right < =


The Raspberry Pi Guy

Marc avatar


bertwert avatar

I thought:
Left: /\
Right: \/
Down: >
Up: <

PS Headphones should have an L and an R marked on them :)

KAE avatar

Looks like it’s just for video playback right? Would be cool if something like this could record video as well. Each ‘click’ of the crank would expose a single frame and save it. Need to have a fast SD card – depending on how fast you crank it. Varying speed recording would be an interesting effect.

Robert M avatar

“You had me at Numa Numa guy…”

The Other Peter Green avatar

I assume there’s a switch somewhere to toggle between the “stun” and “kill” settings… :)

brian avatar

What is the format or codec limitation on the bioscope?

Franky avatar

Brian, if I remember correctly, the format of the video to be played on the Bioscope was M-JPEG.

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