Watching the world from other dimensions

Waves on the Oregon shoreline writhe unsettlingly in this experimental slit-scan style video by Don Whitaker: "I like to think that this is what you might see if you looked at our world from a spot in the fourth dimension." Starting life as video clips shot on the coast, the footage was run through a script written in the visual programming language Processing, touted as a 'sketchbook for electronic ideas.' "The script works by taking a vertical sliver of pixels from the source video, advancing the video one frame, grabbing another sliver of pixels, and so on through the entire source clip," Whitaker wrote on the video's description. "These slivers are then stacked horizontally to create one frame of the final clip. The animation effect is created by advancing the location of the vertical slice and repeating the stacking process." Whitaker's usual fare avoids hyperdimensionality, but is no less beautiful for it: check out his collection of free HD stock videos of the Northwest. Surfing the 4th Dimension [Vimeo, via Submitterator. Thanks, Kitchendon!]


  1. Just like it isn’t possible to view a 3 dimensional object from a 2 dimensional perspective, it’s even *more impossible* to view a 4 dimensional object from a 2 dimensional perspective.

    1. I can draw a picture of a cube, no it isn’t a true representation, but it is close enough that I can start to wrap my head around the concept. Think of this like that.

      1. Yeah, but this is two steps up (4d on 2d). Which would be just as meaningless as drawing a cube (3d) on a line (1d) or a square (2d) on point (0d).

        Either way, I think the creator is confusing time and the fourth dimension, which is (contrary to popular belief) not completely accurate.

        1. I think you are confusing what the creator meant. The creator sounded well aware that this wasn’t literally what a four-dimensional creature would see (complete with pixel-line deconstruction), but a way to imagine it from something more closely approximating a fourth-dimensional perspective.

          And: of course that’s using the fourth dimension to refer to time. That use is common enough to be considered one of the definitions of the fourth dimension, even if it isn’t the one mathematicians would use.

          In other words, I don’t think you’re enlightening anyone.

    2. A 3D object can be projected into 2D as a slice. So a 3D sphere would appear as a circle of varying diameters (or a point if tangent to the 2D plane). The 2D surface would be almost meaningless in 3D though since it would have 0 thickness.

      The 2D plane might have a thickness on a subatomic level though, sort of how there are conjectured to be higher dimensions in our world but only on extremely small scales.

  2. Just like a pendant can explain things to people who already know it, it’s even *more silly* to to focus on those details when discussing interesting art.

  3. I can’t comment on the mathematical realism (though I do like Processing), but I can vouch that watching this while listening to the “Inception” soundtrack makes for a fun and chemical-free hallucinogenic trip.

  4. Back in the mid 80’s there was a device that would convert a video camera image to be viewed on a Macintosh computer. Because the computer was so slow, you had to sit very still for a few seconds (a minute?) while the image was converted one vertical line by one vertical line. If you moved the next line in the image would be taken of the new position.

    Douglas Adams did a self portrait this way and put it on the back cover of The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts.

  5. I am aware that this may not be a mathematially accurate depiction of observable reality from the vantage point of hypothetical additional spatial dimensions.

    1. This is a splendid sentence. I require that it becomes part of all standard legal disclaimers from now on.

  6. Wow,
    I am not sure, but I think these were really filmed on the planet Solaris (1972 version).

    What a trip.

  7. Bad description aside, I do like it… sounds a little like Aphex, looks a little like Future Sound of London.

  8. BTW, I thought the video was awesome. I would like to see the original footage. Perhaps that was it after the credits on the left side…?

  9. You’ve all sussed out my intent with the description pretty well – I was merely grasping for ways to describe the technique and the ‘time as 4D’ concept is one that helps me wrap my head around the visuals.

    flyagaric: Your Time Portraits are awesome. I can tell that we have been exploring along similar paths. Thanks for the link.

    imag: I was just thinking last night that I should post some before and after clips or maybe a side by side comparison. Should have time to do that this weekend.

    BTW – I’ve posted the Processing code that I used to create these clips. You can grab it here:

    (about halfway down the page)

    There are several other slit-scan tools and an overview of various techniques posted here:

    Thanks for the feedback, folks. :)
    -Don Whitaker

  10. I’d also like to point out that a guy by the name of Jesse Hemminger (very talented artist and technologist) has also been creating systems like this since at least the year 2000, when we were students together at OSU.

    One such example:×120.html

    The approach was very similar … using each sliver of the scene to replay over time everything that occurred in that sliver. He has a video of himself spinning around in a chair and some boiling vegetables that are really fascinating.

  11. My first job out of college entailed working with these guys.

    They used to do a lot of slit-scanning on animation stands and optical printers. The shadows in ‘The Untochables’ main titles, and the tail of the star (original version) of the NBC ‘The More You Know’ would be some examples.

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