February 17, 2014

How Rolling Shutter Not Only Affects Films, but Our Perceptions of the Andromeda Galaxy

Rolling ShutterAs 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.

Science!

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.

[via Vsauce & Filmmaker IQ]

Your Comment

14 Comments

I don't see this problem. Even when I shot in a very bright situation. I need to set shutter speed more than 1/2500. I didn't notice the problem.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_zY3g69YXM

February 17, 2014 at 9:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ching

Very interesting video. Yay Science!

February 17, 2014 at 12:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Dan

Sony A7R combats the rolling shutter with a the "best of four frames" composite shot. Based on a few videos that I've seen, the motion artifacts are fairly negligible. Of course, if a sputnik zoomed by you ...

February 17, 2014 at 1:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

tell BMD global shutter isnt good enough anymore. we need universal shutter.

February 17, 2014 at 2:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ricky

this guy. i like it :D lol

February 19, 2014 at 8:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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My favorite paragraph in this article is the one that simply exclaims, "Science!" That's hard-hitting film journalism at its very finest.

February 17, 2014 at 2:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4559

I'm the Katie Couric of film newz.

February 17, 2014 at 10:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

awesome :D great article!

February 19, 2014 at 8:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Not to be purposefully negative because I can be, but what the hell is this doing on NFS?

February 17, 2014 at 4:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tyler

........ because it illustrates the universality of 'the shutter effect' in a very clear and interesting way, not just a cinematographer's narrow view.point.

February 17, 2014 at 8:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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John Heery

Thanks V, for a super interesting post.

February 18, 2014 at 4:17AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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steve

Wait till continuos streaming frameless capture is invented. A camera that works like the brain when recording the flow of photons that enter the eye. Single frames could then be constructed at any point in time using the data recorded from the uninterrupted stream. No rolling shutter and infinite choice of frames. On second thought that might be a long wait! Back to the tried and true!

February 19, 2014 at 1:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Cool Post! Great video!
We need more than "New camera" news.
Thanks V Renée. Cheers from Brazil.

February 19, 2014 at 8:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Theuer

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June 19, 2014 at 4:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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