Researchers figured out how to use single "slices" of an image on an iPad to create 3-D animations that appear to glow in mid-air when you photograph them with a long-exposure camera. Watch a new experimental medium being born.

Making Future Magic: iPad light painting from Dentsu London on Vimeo.

A new post on City of Sound reminded me to post this short film by BERG/Dentsu London, embedded above.

As City of Sound writes, the film suggests that the "grain" of experimental future media-or, rather, the experimental reuse of existing media-will always start off "slightly awkward, incomplete, jittery, fizzing in and out of focus. And yet magical. Coverage is patchy, positioning vague, interaction is compromised yet the capabilities of people, buildings and cities are extended nonetheless."

This particular effect-caused by images that have been animated on the screen of a moving iPad that is then photographed in timelapse-could easily be scaled up. Everything from LEDs on the bottoms of glass-walled elevators to special lights in passing cars and buses could be given three-dimensional content: unexpected forms of content projected into the urban air and only detectable, or legible, on a different temporal register.

The optical future of architectural ornament: light with content.

That is, you get home with your digital camera and you click back through to see what you've photographed-and there are words, shapes, and objects hovering there in the street, or inside the buildings you once stood within, visual data only revealed through long-exposures.

The possibilities for creating 3D information displays hidden in a kind of acute angle to the present moment-literally on display right in front of you but only visible later, when filtered through a timestretched medium-are mindboggling. It's like the present moment is coinciding with a much larger holograph-the present moment as an airplane flying through a cloud.


To say that this exact technique will soon be popping up as a special effect in feature films is, I think, an understatement. It's the new bullet time, perhaps: little screens attached to automated tracks, whirling around a film set, spinning words, ghosts, and images through space.

Images from Making Future Magic by BERG/Dentsu London, courtesy of BERG Studio].

This post by Geoff Manaugh originally appeared over at BLDG BLOG.