SAAM #2 — Making the images (video).

Dear Friends, 
today’s article is about how to design images that produce rhythm when spinning, and how to do that when they spin very fast.

Let’s start right away with a video of the first prototype:

How does that work? 
Long story short:

Full story:

As you can see, one transparent record overlays another one, to create a beautiful interference due to the rotation. You would be surprised to feel how smooth is the interaction, and how wide is the range of geometries that you can generate.

For example, going counterclockwise with the top layer generates a strong interference until you get to a speed where everything looks static. Well, we’d better saying motionless, cause the images still floats and flickers a lot.

Two factors to create psychedelics:

  • symmetry, how the elements are distributed around the circle
  • frequency, how dense is the texture

There is a strong interdependency between the two, but we kept them separated, to go deeper into each one.

Symmetry has a lot to deal with optical effects. Without any rotation, symmetry itself can create complex optical effects by just looking at it.

SAAM was initially thought to achieve this complex moirè effect:

This video was made by my IUAV project team back in 2012 while realizing Esodo, a physical interaction statue.

As you can see, this symmetry is fairly complex: the two layers are identical. When rotating around the same center, but opposite direction, they create tighter textures until you loop back to release the original image.
You just need a rotation of about 3° degrees, to see the whole phase.

The interference generates square-ish shapes and, even if the bigger picture is a radial gradient, the atoms have x and y coordinates and look like they are arranged in a matrix.

This image is not good because:

  • turntable will be too fast, if the effect is triggered every 3°
  • we should design very simple radial symmetries, where images won’t reveal their matrix nature


Here’s where we start to think in terms of frequency, aka how to design something that moves, aka how much does it move?!, aka how to apply math incapacity to design. Math is dispatched soon.

We started to replicate the dots around the plate of the turntable, counting them one by one (they are around 180) and making trial pictures out of them.

Rotation = Grey

For the ones who are not familiar with these dots: it’s a calibration tool for the pitch. When you spin at 0%, which means the native pitch of the song, the big dots will be motionless, while the others will move. This is due to the red stroboscopic light and the turntable rotation.

Unfortunately, all images failed. The rotation makes noise out of them. Black tight dots or lines become various shades of grey. No good.

Rotation = Grey

After several trials, we land on a simpler and bolder image. Thick lines, low frequencies, strong edges, progressive.

Here we understand that we need a great top layer: we can’t just use twice that picture, and since we’re plenty of trials, we start to try.

We name our best result as Framer, which is nothing more than a simple stroboscopic light, showing the image underneath where’s transparent, and hiding it where’s black.

The Framer and the turntable speed combined together generate this amazing complexity. Have a look, and send me your feedback!

Prototype Demo


For the ones who just joined, this is SAAM, a record which is not creating audio but video rhythm.

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