Laser + mirror + sound
Laser + mirror + sound

I made a video a while back about Chladni Figures which are a way to visualise the resonance of two dimensional objects, like this square plate. And ever since then, I’ve been on the lookout for other ways to visualise sound through the vibrations that they make or, the vibrations that make them. So I was really happy to come across this one thanks to Brian Mackenwells. He showed me this demonstration and he’s allowed me to steal it for my channel. So here’s the setup, I got a Bluetooth speaker, which I’ve put inside this bowl. And then, I’ve stretched a giant balloon over the top. And then I’ve glued a fragment of mirror to the surface. This fragment of mirror represents a sample of the kind of movement that’s going on on this rubber membrane, when you play music in the bowl. And we can interrogate that movement with a laser. The laser reflects off the mirror and hits my wall so any movement in the mirror will change the direction of the reflected beam. So, when we play music we see this kind of messy, chaotic pattern in the reflected beam, but if you play pure notes, you get some really interesting effects. This pure note generates a pattern that we can understand quite easily. You might imagine the membrane of the balloon kind of moving like this as the note is played which makes sense so the beam is going to be moving up and down on the wall but maybe if it’s got a bit of this motion as well then you’re going to see a kind of oval shape. What’s interesting is, as we decrease the pitch we see some changes. The first thing to notice is, as you sweep the frequency down you get these spikes in amplitude. and, I think what’s happening there is we’re hitting the resonating frequencies of the volume of air inside the bowl. As you get lower still the patterns become a bit more complicated like, you get this figure of eight, and then, you get this funny pattern here What’s really cool though, is if you start to layer different frequencies on top of each other so, this frequency creates this pattern and this frequency creates this pattern. But what about if we combine the two? And then what if we add this third frequency? So you can have loads of fun with this create all sorts of mad shapes and patterns by combining frequencies together. Here’s just a few of the patterns I’ve found by playing with two frequencies on top of each other. I wrote some JavaScript to help me sweep through the frequencies with the kind of precision that I needed If you’re interested in that code, there’s a link in the description. You’ll be pleased to know, I’ve used very few comments. This was an interesting project to film, because I came up against some of the differences between the way human eyes work and the way cameras work. So trying to recreate the live experience was a challenge like, the way we see things is continuous but the way the camers sees things is frame by frame So I’m running at 25 frames per second So every 25th of a second, you take a new frame. But you have a choice with each frame for how long to keep the shutter open for So you can keep the shutter open just briefely and then it’s closed for the rest of that 25th of a second and then you open it briefely again and then close it open it briefely and then close it or you can keep it open for the entire 25th of a second or something in between. And you often adjust that to fix motion blur or maybe you want motion blur because that’s part of the human experience, and you’re trying to recreate that. But if you set your camera to manual (sic) then it’s gonna make those calculations for you to get the right amount of light to hit the sensor. But if you’re filming something like a laser bouncing off a vibrating mirror you better set your camera to manual otherwise you’re going to have a bad time. So for example, filming with a really fast shutter speed you get this kind of pattern forming and this is nothing like the true experience of watching it live To get as close to the live experience as possible I set the shutter speed to be the full 25th of a second. But even then, there are differences, and they’re quite enlightening actually. Take a look at this freeze frame You can see the path that the laser took whilst the shutter was open and you can actually see the start and the end of the journey as well So, this is where the shutter opened the laser travels for a bit, and then this is where the shutter closed. Though actually, look a little bit closer and you can see There seems to be be more than one starting point, and more than one finishing point I don’t really know why I don’t think it’s because the laser pulses otherwise I would have noticed it watching it live, in person It may be to do with the way the frames are stored, and then reproduced. Anyway, interesting. If you have some ideas, let me know. So whilst something like this looks quite messy on camera because of all those loose ends it still looks really nice in person So, having said that, here are a few more snippets that look really nice, in person and on camera. So a big thank you to Brian Mackenwells for putting me onto that project Also a bit thank you to the sponsor for this video It’s an interesting one this time because it’s one that I use. It’s Skillshare. So, Skillshare, how do you describe it, gosh It’s like, it’s an online community I suppose for creative people, where you can work through video classes So they’ve got over 16,000 classes That you can learn about-
So cameras, for example If you’re interested in how cameras work and you want to take that knowledge and, you know, use it to make great videos and take great pictures, there’s loads of classes for you. I use the creative cinematography class, which really helped me out But whatever you’re interested in. They’ve got lifestyle stuff, they’ve got technology stuff, If you’re the sort of person who likes to improve themselves. then do youself a favour and check it out. Also, use the link in the description and the promo code because then they know that I sent you. But also, the first 300 people to use that link will get two months of premium membership free. Premium membership gets you unlimited access to all those videos. There are so many resources, so much, like, source for inspiration if you wanna try something new. And then after two months, it’s as little as $10 a month or if you don’t like it, then you can quit, and it won’t cost you anything. So there you go, check out Skillshare. That’s it really, I think Hope you enjoyed the video. If you did, don’t forget to hit Subscribe and click on the notification bell as well because my videos are a bit sporadic at the moment that’s the best way to make sure you definitely hear about new videos. Alright, I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Laser + mirror + sound”

  1. INDIVELOPE says:

    The bits of light that have more than one start and end, could be the edge of the mirror?

  2. Scott L says:

    With this setup I'd love to see you experiment with consonance and dissonance in music, and tonality things

  3. TheOverGamer says:

    Windows XP time.

  4. Volksbeat's oven says:

    how do bach fugues look like?

  5. DimmyDimmy says:

    Oh man I would love to see you play Sunn O)))'s latest album and publish the results for the love of everything scientific.

  6. Vareesh Ordo says:

    So basically you made an oscilloscope?

  7. Fritzklyka says:

    Would be interesting to try with a 4 part harmony choir piece, with all human overtones.

  8. Oh yeah yeah says:

    the frequencies are vibrating the mirror out of the path of the laser because the mirror is so small. Thats the gaps

  9. ActualSharkBoi says:

    I would love to see these interpreted as 3D objects. Bc that’s what a lot of this looks like, rotating objects.

  10. Zerberus says:

    I wonder me if you get the same patterns like jerobeam fenderson 😅
    I think he does the same thing like you, now with an oszilloscope.

  11. Danny McCune says:

    Reminds me of a lissajous stereo display on an oscilloscope.

  12. drey santillan says:

    Imagine an alien species where they see sound like this one and this is how they speak

  13. Jorge Andrés Miranda Núñez says:

    that is an oscilloscope?

  14. boomer moffett says:

    1:20 my earbuds out of my pocket

  15. Dalrae says:

    reminded me of this by SmarterEveryDay:

  16. Вова Захаров says:

    Спизжено у Гайвера

  17. Amin says:

    7:08 thats probably the best one

  18. luis martinez says:

    these are what stars are

  19. kszeslo1 says:


  20. Human 3000 says:

    Play 69hz. And 420hz. LoL

  21. Mike X says:

    What kind me music do you listen to?
    Me: you wouldn’t understand

  22. Blackjack EXO says:

    Camera effect is due to rolling shutter

  23. Stephan Tranquille says:

    Sensational! Thank you, great trick!

  24. largerification says:

    Try some sounds from movies, like War of the worlds alien sounds, teleporting sounds, etc.

  25. TAKESHI HOTTA says:

    miracle! It's a natural oscilloscope.

  26. Conor Moyne says:

    Could the multiple start/stop points be to do with the effect of the shutter capturing one "end point" at each point the laser went upwards in the frame while the shutter was closing down ?

  27. Fenty Staphlebrow says:

    Maybe the gaps are due to the mirror moving out of the way of the path of the laser?

  28. Simon Nagel says:

    Reminds me of jerobeam fenderson

  29. Ruben says:

    play a phat beat dawg

  30. Beniossss says:

    This is cool thing to watch

  31. Rajendra chhimpa says:

    You are the genius sir

  32. Be Prizm says:

    It literally sounds like a damn scary movie with all the low frequencies😂

  33. Tsudeki says:

    laser finna hit the woah

  34. D4VOBRO says:

    The multiple laser starts and stops on a single exposure might be the scanning of the shutter from top to bottom. There are cameras with sensors that have a global shutter capturing everything at once.

  35. Rifty says:

    You need to write a program to make pictures into frequencies and have multiple layers, it would work really well.

  36. Tem Xteam says:


  37. SpeakerMunkey says:

    Bit late to the party, but could the gaps recorded in the pattern be the mirror temporarily vibrating out of line with the laser so it is no longer reflecting?

  38. i can't hecking breathe says:

    idk why but this made me think of 4d shadows

  39. Feskow says:

    Thanks, I got better understanding of cameras with your help!

  40. Darcy Moloney says:

    Does anything happen when you do thirds, perfect fifths or triads? Though I doubt it because music theory is purely a human invention and changes with cultures so there shouldn't be anything fundamentally tied to thirds

  41. Patrick Simmons says:

    You need the bowl to be a perfect circle and round and you need the mirror in to be a circle and in the center of the bowl. Because this is not the case is why the outcome looks chaotic

  42. Technical Gujarati says:

    Toy for Technical person 😂😂

  43. Aleksandar Rajkovic says:

    Did u try to us frequency of chakras?

  44. Life Of Gaming says:

    Go get the job

  45. Michael Monro says:

    This is how aliens communicate

  46. umar umran says:

    The reason behind that the projected wave is now making a loop is that the input wave u have given to mirror is not continues. I mean when mirror start vibrating some of the input wave doesn't strike the surface of mirror which produces discontious path of projected wave . do this experiment again which the large surface area of mirror.

  47. Daniel Chin says:

    Please try AM modulation!

  48. Boab UAS says:

    Wow, so beautiful! Thank you!!

  49. S S says:

    Nice! like interrogating Bessel functions with lasers!

  50. Jasperagus says:

    Ahhh, green spaghetti.

  51. TennoHack says:

    I imagine the mirror just moved so much that the laser wasn't hitting it anymore at some points, causing that effect

  52. Manavdeep Singh says:

    Can you please test oscilloscope music with this setup.

  53. geocarey says:

    An extension would be to glue 3 mirrors at different places and use a red, green and blue laser on each. It should be possible to angle the lasers to project the patterns onto the same spot on the wall. Where can I get 3 cheap R,G and B lasers?

  54. David Kaest says:

    The loose ends might come from the laser pasing the edges of the (very small) mirror. Try with a bigger one or with less volume.

  55. Why Soitanly says:

    Lissajous figures.

  56. Владимир Ильич says:

    Guys, this is a rolling shutter effect, that breaks the pattern
    Thats how cmos sensors work – reading pixels line by line

  57. D Sauce says:

    None of this is contextual. Play some fuckin Led Zeppelin through it. That would bridge a gap for me mentally so I can compare your monotones to something.

  58. Diesel Boats says:

    Steve, if you used reflective mylar instead of rubber, do you think your tone shapes would have been different?

  59. Geoff Davids says:

    I wonder if you could reverse engineer this to create pictures you designed, or whether the resonance effects, echo and reverb within the bowl and imperfections in the rubber cover would make it too difficult

  60. Tyrin Turner says:

    3:30 torus? what notes were played?

  61. Sabir Mamdapur says:

    Life is nothing but vibrations.

  62. Green Magic says:

    4:57 automatic ?

  63. Антон Павлов says:

    6.09 Is it possible to laser to hit a limits of mirror? maybe "oscillogram" is so discret because in case of resonsnce laser hit the baloon instead of mirror

  64. VŁĄĐĨSŁÃV says:

    This is me trying to untangle my headphones

  65. Parker Engel says:

    Duuuuuude I've never seen harmonics visualized like this, that is truly fascinating

  66. Беларусь says:

    am i the only one who sees those shapes in 3d space and not on a flat surface?

  67. Advintanceelmd says:


  68. Adrian G Eyre says:

    wow cool

  69. Igor Igorovich says:


  70. Alphatec Engineering says:

    Amazing Steve! many thanks for this great videos!

  71. MASTERUFALL says:

    For those that want to do this but don’t have a giant balloon or have some other problem, I was able to mimic his experiment by using plastic wrap, stretching it tight over the bowl, then taping the mirror shard to the plastic wrap. If you don’t have clear tape, carefully use a utility knife to cut a hole in the tape (I used scotch tape and just peeled away the tape). As long as the laser is bouncing off the mirror in one spot, the rest of the mirror doesn’t matter too much. At least, it didn’t affect my results that much.

  72. Ash Ketchum says:

    Laser is monochromatic and single point, then how it's making those things?

  73. Simon Plank says:

    I need to try this!

  74. Trevor Allen says:

    00:00 Minecraft_cave_sound.wav

  75. Yaroslava Efimova says:


  76. DrezdenHC says:

    Looks like Lissajous curves.

  77. Infy says:

    4:56 if you set your camera to automatic*

  78. Furkan Kazar says:

    Winamp! Whip The Llama's Ass!

  79. Nerd Made says:

    I love how three dimensional the shapes look.

  80. ToCo says:

    Combine this with Fourier series, calibrated to a precise location on a membrane, to animate…

  81. Jerry says:

    2:35 this funny pattern here

  82. Friend says:

    What if. You play "oscilloscope music" on such a rig?


    دا ممكن يكون مستقبل الشاشات وممكن وضع مستشعرات لضبط الصوت الذي يتحكم في الليزر

  84. manatoa1 says:

    That is incredibly cool!

  85. prashanth kumar says:

    JavaScript audio api 😍😍😁
    clever guy ….

    I love js

  86. Wolfsie Jk says:

    That looks like oscilloscope music/drawing i mean you know that thing yeah?

  87. Tardis 697 says:

    rolling sutter

  88. Lucky Singh says:

    Slow mo guys should do this

  89. Artic Exploit says:

    damn this looks like oscilloscope music

  90. E Rico says:

    “We get this funny pattern here”

    p e n i s

  91. nootle says:

    I can completely convince myself that the laser is in 3D

  92. NUkekz says:

    Wow, an oscilloscope!

  93. Jaydeep Das says:

    You have just proven string Theory

  94. Pineapple_Playz says:

    Put the camera on the rubber with a stronger speaker so it still vibrates. What would we see then? Like for him to see

  95. Edward Kie says:

    Hey bro take a look at this booger.

  96. Christoph L says:

    It might be cause the shutter of a camera moves from top to bottom creating variation in time of the recording

  97. i Sseven says:

    minecraft abient noise

  98. DrakoNN says:

    The sound was really creepy it could even be used in a scray movie

  99. Daniel Gallagher says:

    There seems to be a relationship between the ratio of the frequencies and the the speed at which the shape appears to be rotating. Any idea what that mathematical relationship is and what the physical interpretation of it would be?

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