This Art Project’s Video Is Not A Time-Lapse


Artist Pe Lang uses linear polarization filters to create an unusual effect in his piece polarization | nº 1. The piece consists of a large number of discs made from polarizing film that partially overlap each other at the edges. Motors turn these discs slowly, and in the process the overlapping portions go from clear to opaque black and back again.

The disc rotation speed may be low but the individual transitions occur quite abruptly. Seeing a large number of the individual discs transitioning in a chaotic pattern — but at a steady rate — is a strange visual effect. About 30 seconds into the video there is a close up, and you can see for yourself that the motors and discs are all moving at a constant rate. Even so, it’s hard to shake the feeling of that one is watching a time-lapse. See for yourself in the video, embedded below.

Polarizing filters seem to give people ideas, because they are often used in different ways for unusual or clever results. For example, the polarizing filter from a laptop screen was used to create the visuals in this polariscope-like art fixture, and polarized filters were put to work to hide secret messages on LCD screens.

31 thoughts on “This Art Project’s Video Is Not A Time-Lapse

        1. Take two antennas of opposite polarization and connect them to two transceivers. Add in a bit of DSP to cancel out crosstalk. Repeat on the other end. Do it right and you can double the data bandwidth without using any more spectral bandwidth.

      1. It’s been done in the past. LCD technology is the practical application of this, and simple LCD displays are inexpensive to produce. Hell, they even come with backlighting so you don’t need daylight to see the graphics.

        Originally, LCD consisted of large segments, such as those found on Game and Watch games. But as it matured, it moved towards pixel segments and controllers capable of addressing many thousands of segments.

  1. When I was watching the video, I could momentarily see numbers, or parts of them, in 7 segment style. I wonder if a multi-digit 7 segment display could be created using this technique?

    1. This. It seems one digit would require 8 wheels, though trying to share them among adjacent digits would get real hairy real fast. Bonus points for driving all 8 for a digit on one motor and offsetting/dividing the motion per-wheel to make a simple counter that indicated rotations.

    2. It works well with one digit, but segments around digits will get messy. For example to get the number 3 the segment on the right-center will be blackened too (getting something like ‘3-‘). One solution is to make numbers span more segments and maybe discs smaller, so that segments around aren’t apparent. I wonder how much does the filter cost.

      1. “something like ‘3-‘”
        So true, I didn’t even realize. And then if just the 4 outer side discs are just a bit smaller to not overlap, the center 3 segments are kinda bold.

    1. They don’t.. (was watching this earlier as well). If you look closely, there are a few shots where you can see the individual rings (I’m guessing they’re rubber o-rings) kinda bounce off of each other and continue in the other direction. It’s impressive that overall you get the notion that they’re all moving in a loop on each level..

    2. Ooh, that is cool. It’s a sort of illusion, slow the video down and you can see they are bouncing off each other. I think the rod holding the rings is rotating and that rotation combined with the rings’ angle of sticking onto it is responsible for them walking along it. When they collide, they both flip to the opposite angle and walk in the opposite direction. How the rotation is converted is puzzling- it could be threaded both CW and CCW so whatever way the ring is sitting in a groove = which groove its sitting in = which way it’s walking. This is also why they wobble a bit right after “passing” each other or bumping into the motor at the end and changing direction. Yes, it’s Vereh Nice

  2. This makes my eyes go cross-eyed for some reason. It’s cute but I would not want to stare at it for long.

    What they should do with it is make the speed variable and then put it in the window of the Russian embassy or some such, driving the spooks crazy trying to ‘decode’ it. And Hillary and friends would go crazy ‘interpreting’ it :)

  3. I don’t always like “Art” but when I do it is because it leaves my mind open to possibilities I didn’t see before. Pe Lang’s work does this to me.

    And in case you were wondering I have actually studied a couple of semesters of Art history at university, but that just left me thinking less of most art and artists.

    As for the idea behind the work, hmmmm the patterns shift in ways that show the result of local interaction, yet they are strictly controlled on a global level too, so if local changes are parameters then global pattern is the computational result? I need to think about this more, see now why for me it is a great work of art?

  4. For more neat tricks, shine a LASER through a polarizing filter. Then put two together at 90 degrees to one another. Rotate and move one of the filters.

    They have to be linear polarizing filters. The circular polarizing RealD 3D movie glasses do nothing visible to a LASER beam. Putting a left in front of a right only slightly dims the beam. Would be neat if the left lens circularly polarized the light its way and the right lens (which is circularly polarized the opposite way) would completely block the light.

    If RealD 3D used linear polarized light and linear filter glasses, it would still work but at the 3D movie you’d have to keep your head perfectly upright or you’d lose the 3D effect, the image would dim, then go black as your sideways head tilt increased.

    The LCD shutter glasses used for some 3D Televisions use linear polarization. Can’t lay on the couch and watch Creature From the Black Lagoon in 3D, or use any smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop with an LCD screen. LED screens, no problem since they don’t use polarizing filters. So you can use your top line Samsung Galaxy phone while watching 3D TV but not your LCD iPhone – unless you can use it by feel. Go with a 3D that uses left/right circular polarization and glasses that don’t need batteries.

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