Daily Picture Show

How Sound Can Create Sculpture

Somewhat recently, Canon commissioned Dentsu London, the creative agency behind the iPad light painting video, to come up with a campaign that celebrates color — to advertise the Pixma printer. Here's what they came up with:

In short, it's a visualization of how sound can create sculpture. But it's a highly technical process that requires an entire team of people and a NASA-looking setup.

Small drops of colored paint are placed on a stretched black balloon.

Small drops of colored paint are placed on a stretched black balloon. John Matta/Dentsu London hide caption

itoggle caption John Matta/Dentsu London

Here's how the videos work: Drops of paint are placed on a black balloon that has been stretched over a speaker. A blast of sound causes the surface of the balloon to snap, the paint to jump — and the super-brief moment in time is captured with a high-speed camera, shooting 5,000 frames per second. The footage is slowed down, and the result is a spectacular scene of organic formations.

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Dentsu was inspired by Linden Gledhill's "water figures," a set on Flickr. And Gledhill, a biochemist and photographer, was brought in to orchestrate the shoot. In a Q&A, he explains that these formations are actually only about an inch high, and their shape is determined by the "pitch of the note, the complexity (instrument) and volume." I wonder what an E flat looks like; would it look the same if photographed twice in a row?

Gledhill cites Flickr user fotoopa as having invented the process. In any event, it has caught on, and more photographers are giving it a go.

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