Paint + Sound Waves + High Speed Cameras = Mind-Boggling Beauty

By Jennifer Welsh | October 8, 2010 12:06 pm

Who would think a printer would inspire such beautiful art?

A collaboration between the ad company Dentsu London, Canon printers, and photographer/biochemist Linden Gledhill created these “sound sculptures” which use high speed cameras to catch tiny droplets of paint as they splatter under the force of sound waves. The resulting videos were used in an ad that celebrates Canon printers’ color quality, but honestly, who cares what they’re selling when the images are so pretty.

Gledhill gets extreme detail in his shots through his use of an ultra-high speed camera, which takes up to 5,000 frames per second, and a Canon 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 100mm Macro IS USM lens to get intense, up-close detail. He previously used the paint splatter sculpture technique in his “Water Figures” series, he said on Dentsu’s Flickr page:

I, like many people, find Water Figures almost compulsive viewing. They appeal to people in many ways because they represent a fusion of science, technology, natural chaos and art. Every image is unique and can be appreciated in all of these ways. For the scientist, who is interested in fluid dynamic or chaos theory, they capture the behavior of fluids in motion.

Hit the jump for more info and a video about the creative process.

To make the paint dance, he carefully lays out his paint droplets on a balloon stretched over a speaker. And while it looks like the droplets are dancing, Gledhill is actually only playing one tone at a time. To change up the action of the paint, he changes the instrument, frequency and volume of the tone, he explains:

Pure smooth notes create long tentacle like forms, whereas sharp complex high volume notes give rise to detached droplets which resemble planets.

Only about one in 10 of the pictures he takes are perfect enough to make the cut. Check out a video of the process below to learn more about how they made the magic happen, and read Gledhill’s blog post for more details.

In his other life, Gledhill is a biochemist at GlaxoSmithKline, where he works on diabetes and cancer drug development. In his spare time he likes to take close-up pictures of insects, plants and fungi, and as he told Dentsu London, he loves what he does:

I’m completely enchanted by the physical world around me and obsessed by its natural beauty. My career in science has magnified this feeling of awe. For me, photography is a way to capture this physical beauty and to pass this feeling on to others.

For more pictures and (much more oh-so-gorgeous) video visit Dentsu London’s Flickr page.

Related content:
The Intersection: Science, Art, and Primates
Visual Science: The Very Japanese Art of Growing Perfect Apples
Discoblog: Guggenheim & YouTube: The High Art/Low Art Mashup Is Complete
Discoblog: Art in Space: Painting Created in Zero Gravity Sells for a Small Fortune
DISCOVER: Art That Breathes and Grows—Because It’s Made Out of Plants (photos)
DISCOVER: Plain Ol’ Paint Goes Hi-Tech

All Images: Dentsu London

  • Justin

    Awesome stuff but the 5D Mark II can NOT take 5,000 frames per second. It can capture just under 4 frames per second. All the video is from the way cooler high speed camera in the 7th image and at 1:15 in the video.

    I also didn’t see any of the shots from the insane rotating rig, what’s up with that?

  • Idlewilde

    They’re soooo pretty!

  • Jennifer Welsh

    @Justin, thanks for the correction. I’ve updated the post to reflect your comments. I admittedly don’t know much about cameras.

    That rotating rig does look amazing, but I wasn’t able to find out much about it other than what was in the video.

    Thanks for reading and commenting,


  • MJ

    I’d like to see these reproduced in glass, as closely as possible.

  • Melody

    Oh my … stunningly beautiful, thank you for sharing your creations

  • SaCrIt: Science Art Blog

    That’s stunning to say the least. Brilliant! How did you find out about this?

  • masterillusionist

    this is so awesome… 😛
    i was just wondering whether anyone knows what the really cool song was that was used?

  • kid video cameras repair

    The camera鈥檚 three other buttons (power, photo/video toggle, and Internet Uploader, which I will explain later) are located on the inside of the device, underneath where the LCD screen folds in, and are easily accessible when the screen is open.

  • Alien Martin


  • shaduly

    deadly snapzz.. and thanks for giving me the great idea behind this as i was searching for this since a long


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