For over 15 years, scientist and artist Jeff Lieberman has been fascinated by how objects move in slow motion since first mastering high-speed photography at MIT. His experiments eventually landed him a hosting gig at Discovery’s Time Warp where he uses high speed cameras to explore a variety of everyday occurrences in slow motion. Two years ago Lieberman began to wonder if there might be a way to bring the optical illusion of slow motion imagery into the real world. What if you could see a slow motion object up close and practically reach out and touch it? The result is Slow Dance, a tiny environment that appears to slow down time.
Slow Dance is a picture frame that makes use of strobe lights to turn any object you place inside of it appear to move in slow motion. Lieberman shares:
Strobe lights are nothing new. From the photos of Eadweard Muybridge to the photos of Doc Edgerton, extremely fast strobe lights have been helping us to see into fast motions. On a dancefloor, strobe lights turn us into stop motion animations. But we’ve put strobe light to use in a different fashion.
By using high speed strobe lights blinking 80 times a second, your eyes cannot even see that they are blinking — the light looks continuous. By synchronizing the strobes to the high-speed vibration of objects (feathers, branches, flowers, etc), we create the visual illusion of those objects moving in slow motion. This is a phenomenon called persistence of vision, and works similarly to the way a TV works — by flickering frozen images quickly enough that we perceive them as continuous motion.