Filming Light Reflecting Off Objects


With high-speed cameras you’re able to see bullets passing through objects, explosions in process, and other high-speed phenomena. Rarely, though, are you able to see what happens when light shines on an object without hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. A group of researchers at The University of British Columbia are doing just that with hardware that is well within the range of any home tinkerer.

Making videos of light passing through and around objects has been done before (great animated gifs of that here), but the equipment required of previous similar projects cost $300,000 and couldn’t be used outside the controlled environment of a lab. [Matthias] and his team put together a similar system for about $1,000. The only hardware required is an off-the-shelf 3D time of flight camera and a custom driver powering six red laser diodes.

Aside from having a much less expensive setup than the previous experiments in recording the flight of a pulse of light, [Matthias] and his team are also able to take their and record the flight of light in non-labratory settings. They’ll be doing just that at this year’s SIGGRAPH conference, producing videos of light reflecting off attendee-produced objects in just a few minutes. You can check out the video for the project below.

13 thoughts on “Filming Light Reflecting Off Objects

  1. To finally be able to stop light and observe its characteristics will probably mean that soon we shall finally have our Star Trek imaging. Once you can do this, the next steps would be to analyze where the light is from, how bright it is, and generating any objects that might be off screen. This is very exciting.

  2. I am one of the co-authors (this work was done in my lab).

    @ChalkBored: the measurement process takes a few seconds, so we can’t really have anything dynamic such as non-homogeneous fog wafting around the room. But scattering in solids and stationary liquids can certainly be imaged (see the bottles later in the video, which do contain a slightly scattering liquid).

    @Pun: The method we use is not possible with a kinect since it uses a different imaging process. Note that we really MEASURE the light propagation through the scene, including effects such as scattering, and various kinds of material properties. With a kinect the best one could do is get an approximation of the geometry, and then SIMULATE the light transport, making some assumptions about scattering and material properties.

  3. Video does not work for me (“Please switch to a browser that provides native H.264 support or install adobe flash player”). Flash player is installed and the embedded Youtube video works.

    1. In my experience clicking on the vimeo logo in the corner brings me to the same video on the vimeo site where it does work for me, after clicking a few times to get past flashblock and scriptblock and FF’s click-to-play barriers that is.

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