These mesmerizing stacked sequence videos show the paths of birds in flight (VIDEO)


posted Tuesday, January 21, 2014 at 2:23 PM EDT


Rhode Island School of Design professor Dennis Hlynsky's Small Brains on Mass is an ongoing project looking at the way small brained animals flock in groups. While primarily focused on birds, Hlynsky has also tracked ants, flies, and fish. And while studying mass movements may not stand out too much in itself, what's really impressive is how Hlynsky records these motions. He's developed a special editing technique that allows each subject in the crowd to be shown with a trail of movement behind it, allowing you to see its entire vector of motion at once.

Here's how he explains his techniques, which he pioneered using a simple Flip video camera:

On the site I am posting video clips I have made using a process I call “extruded time”. There are no digital additions to the video. They are processed by stacking a sequence of frames and adding the darkest pixels together. The frame at the beginning of the stack is dropped and the next frame in sequence is added to the end of the stack. This process is repeated until the entire video clip is rendered. I do not use time lapse in the traditional sense of the word but offer a glimpse seconds long of the paths these creatures take. I find each “flock” has a form, a rhythm, and pattern to the glyphs they leave as they perambulate.

You can see his whole suite of videos on his site or through his Vimeo account. By extending the motion patterns of these animals behind them in this way, Hlynsky's work allows us to see the subtle patterns in the flocking behavior which we might otherwise miss. It gives a feel for the way the whole group of subjects move, in addition to each individual. And, it's also incredibly visually impressive.

(via io9, Colossal)