As filmmakers, we may think that distortion issues caused by rolling shutter -- the wobbles, smears, and skews alike -- is a reality that only affects us in the movie world. But, these distortions occur in our natural world all the time, and on a massive scale -- even a supermassive scale. In this excellent video by Vsauce, hosted by none other than the YouTube science guru Michael Stevens, we explore the rolling shutter effect, which, yes, is common in many digital cameras, but is also a phenomenon affecting the way we perceive Andromeda, as well as the rest of our awesome universe.
Weren't expecting a science lesson? That's okay. I've flunked more science classes than I'd like to admit (four), but that doesn't make the science behind film, its nature, or even the nature of our universe any less fascinating. For instance, as Michael points out in the video, the misinterpretation of a stimulus can be seen as an illusion -- a distortion of reality. One of the main fundamental principles cinema relies on to sell its illusion is illusory motion that occurs with stroboscopic images -- a distortion of the reality -- the reality being that, alone, these images are in fact still, but when viewed in a sequence at a high enough rate will appear to be moving. They're not really moving, we're simply misinterpreting them.
So, we know how this lag-induced distortion caused by the rolling shutter effect affects the appearance of films and photos, but what about how it affects the appearance of our solar system, or more specifically, the incredibly massive Andromeda galaxy? Well, essentially what we see is a "wobbly, funhouse mirror, rolling shutter effect version" of it. Michael explains why that is far better than I ever could:
Rolling shutter might be annoying when trying to make your films as clean and undistorted as possible, but its effects are far larger than the stroboscopic images you make here on Earth. Its effect affects us all, even if we don't know it.
And as always, share your thoughts in the comments below.