Can we film a stroboscopic helicopter?

  • Published: 12 August 2019
  • Do check out Captain Disillusion's video "Quick D: Static Helicopter Blades".

    Thanks to Polina for flying the helicopter all day. We hired the helicopter from VVB Aviation who were awesome.

    My old video about the rolling shutter effect "Rolling Shutter Explained on the Cheap".

    Footage of stage coach from "The Lye Green Miniature Stagecoach"

    Footage of the five-blade helicopter from "camera shutter speed matches helicopter`s rotor"

    We have Think Maths "Floating Helicopter" resources for maths teachers.

    - We did also mess around with multiples of the required frame rate (53.5 fps being twice 26.75 fps) which gives a ‘choppy’ version of the stroboscopic effect with twice as many rotors appearing. But I should have taken this out of the edit as I present it as a valid solution. Sorry! First noticed by Alnakar.
    - Let me know if you spot anything else!

    Thanks as always for Jane Street being my principal sponsor.

    Thanks to my Patreon supporters who help make these videos possible. Here is a random subset:

    Wouter Dijkslag
    Laurus Schluep
    Lucas Werkmeister
    Greg Holmes
    Eric Sexton
    Lucie Roux
    Simon Hutchings

    Support my channel and I can make more maths videos:

    Directed by Ben Woolf
    Filming and editing by Trunkman Productions (
    Extra cameras and filming by Andrew Mickelburgh
    Running about by Marius Ulevicius and Melinda Burton
    Helicoptering by Polina Harkin
    Music by Howard Carter
    Audio by Peter Doggart
    Design by Simon Wright

    MATT PARKER: Stand-up Mathematician
    Maths book:
    Nerdy maths toys:
  • Entertainment Entertainment

Comments • 730

  • SmarterEveryDay
    SmarterEveryDay  7 days back

    Looking forward to redoing this in a snarky way for less than $10 worth of gear. 😉

    • Micetticat
      Micetticat  20 hours back

      Smarter Every Day, yep now it is your turn!

    • dounreayder
      dounreayder  2 days back

      I was thinking about stroboscopic effects just the other day. I'm sweating in Italy with two fans pointed at me to help and when I place one fan directly behind the other there are some interesting patterns. If I line my head up to the centre of one fan, with the centre of the other directly behind it, there is a slow pulse pattern. Then, on moving my head to the side, a range of patterns is produced, depending on the angle I'm looking at and the amount of overlap between the fans. The two fans might cost a touch more than $10 but I'd be interested to see some SmarterEveryDay slomo footage of it.

    • PYXEL
      PYXEL  4 days back

      Just borrow matts rotor from the rolling shutter video

    • Austin Bryan
      Austin Bryan  4 days back

      Yes! Can't wait!

    • Travis M.
      Travis M.  5 days back

      use a your high speed camera and record at multiples since you can't record fractions of a frame; 26.75 fps = 2675 fps

  • Facehunter2003
    Facehunter2003  2 hours back

    Came from cpt dissilusion

    • L Dewey
      L Dewey  13 hours back

      ROFL! Great video! Love the humor! 😄

      • Frank Harr
        Frank Harr  17 hours back

        I remember this from my high-school science class. And Mr. Wizard's World. It's a good experiment, made better with just the right amount of math and helicopters.

        • origionalwinja
          origionalwinja  19 hours back

          cool video! thanks for sharing

          • Alpha Bravo
            Alpha Bravo  1 days back

            You could just use a rc helicopter

            • Dante Alighieri
              Dante Alighieri  1 days back

              For you youngsters out there that how we used to help set the timing on engines. Timing lights are still fun to play with...😊

              • Pontus
                Pontus  1 days back

                I wish I had this kind of enthusiasm about anything. Keep doing what you're doing Matt.

                • Mismis315
                  Mismis315  1 days back

                  He got his revenge

                  • Ralph Dias
                    Ralph Dias  2 days back

                    Captain disillusion sent me here first 😁😁😁

                    • EasiPat
                      EasiPat  2 days back

                      Nice work! I think you can push your work one step further and have the blades look wider (through longer exposure?) and have the cool "Airwolf Blade" look, like this:

                      • Psedonymous Cat
                        Psedonymous Cat  2 days back

                        Couldn't you double the frame rate instead of adjust the helicopter?

                        • Karl Pilkington
                          Karl Pilkington  2 days back

                          Why not use a feedback loop to match frame rate to blade rotation?

                          It would be simples programming

                          • pete robinson
                            pete robinson  2 days back

                            I noticed the new Cap'n D vid a few minutes ago, but watched something else (Tom Scott).
                            Then this popped up, so I figured that i'd check this out first.
                            Do. Not. Disappoint. Me.

                            *clicks play.

                            • Ben Crossley
                              Ben Crossley  2 days back

                              If this is the cheap version, I’m really looking forward to the expensive version!!

                              • G h e n o
                                G h e n o  3 days back

                                _debunking the matrix_

                                • jholotan best
                                  jholotan best  3 days back

                                  3:33 evil mastermind enjoying the fruits of his disgusting plan

                                  • Ivan Eduardo Veloz Guerrero

                                    Like for the helicopter!

                                    • Sinus Lebastian
                                      Sinus Lebastian  3 days back

                                      When they got the blades to stay still at 8:17 it's really convincing

                                    • Victor Prokop
                                      Victor Prokop  3 days back

                                      Remember kids,

                                      • Cole Smith
                                        Cole Smith  3 days back

                                        Love the Cap. D outro!

                                        • Sir Light
                                          Sir Light  3 days back

                                          Then how it is flying? I think there are some cosmic superstrings involved.

                                          • Spiritus Interiorem
                                            Spiritus Interiorem  3 days back

                                            I really feel like this little effect could be used effectively on purpose in a movie

                                            • LomnaRudom
                                              LomnaRudom  3 days back

                                              I'm curious to what shutter angle they used.

                                              • Emily Ye
                                                Emily Ye  3 days back

                                                I've been watching you for ages and when I saw you in Captain Disillusion's video I fangirled for a minute!!

                                                • Coughaholic
                                                  Coughaholic  3 days back

                                                  Is it just me or does it look like there are 6 evenly spaced blades when filmed at 53fps? (5:55)

                                                  • LifeAsANoun
                                                    LifeAsANoun  3 days back

                                                    Captain Disilusion lead me back to you, Matt... what are the chances? Can you do that math, Matt?? Can you, MATT???

                                                    • David Gladden
                                                      David Gladden  3 days back

                                                      Could you do this with a quadcopter?

                                                      • Riaan Jonker
                                                        Riaan Jonker  3 days back

                                                        Very very impressive. The thing that really caught my eye was the mirror like surface on the blades when in rotation. (See timestamps 4:17, 7:01 for examples).

                                                        • Xen Orac
                                                          Xen Orac  4 days back

                                                          Paint each blade a different colour!

                                                          • He Ka
                                                            He Ka  4 days back

                                                            I can't believe I never realized Matt is an aussie... I just thought he was an ordinary random brit... but now when Captain D told me the truth I can't understand how blind I've been. His accent is so obvious now... I'm just waiting for him to say wallaby.

                                                            • Daniel Binoy
                                                              Daniel Binoy  4 days back


                                                              • Daren Brett
                                                                Daren Brett  4 days back

                                                                Basic physics , learnt this in school

                                                                • spelunkerd
                                                                  spelunkerd  4 days back

                                                                  At 3:16 you can see three broad triangular grey bands that slowly rotate, with a relief of three triangular bands that are completely transparent. Evidently the sum of multiple rotations yields a lower frequency pattern that is the sum of the higher frequency input. There's a more challenging maths problem.

                                                                  • Anthony Koeslag
                                                                    Anthony Koeslag  4 days back

                                                                    The chopper and frame rate is totally legit, that wind sock in the background: CGI, so fake it's funny

                                                                    • Train Tsar Fun
                                                                      Train Tsar Fun  4 days back

                                                                      Kids love playing with helicopters 🚁

                                                                      • Axel
                                                                        Axel  4 days back

                                                                        If the helicopter was flying higher it would have looked better I reckon because you woudn't see the grass moving.

                                                                        • สุทัศน์ พึ่งวิทย์


                                                                          • Michael Lohmann
                                                                            Michael Lohmann  4 days back

                                                                            Wait a second... Matt Parker, Captain Disillusion and the wife of James Harkin from the podcast No Such Thing As A Fish!?

                                                                            • punaiset pimpulat
                                                                              punaiset pimpulat  4 days back

                                                                              It probably isn't very often that you get to request a pilot to fly at a certain very specific RPM.

                                                                              • Dangerous Pictures
                                                                                Dangerous Pictures  4 days back

                                                                                It looks so cool if the Helicopter turns at the same speed the blades are drifting

                                                                                • bachir abdelwahed
                                                                                  bachir abdelwahed  4 days back

                                                                                  You know that the easiest way to do it is shoot it at high high frame rates 10 000 fps for example and then take the frames you want from the video.... And then it doesn't really matter what rpm the helicopter is turning at.... You adjust the frane rate every second or so ...

                                                                                  • teeroux
                                                                                    teeroux  4 days back


                                                                                    • Cobalt Jester
                                                                                      Cobalt Jester  4 days back

                                                                                      That is a seriously good camera, and so is the second one used for the helicopter footage. This video is by far and away the best quality on this channel....

                                                                                      • Brains for Dinner
                                                                                        Brains for Dinner  5 days back

                                                                                        Here's a productive use of resources! Lol

                                                                                        • Rich Wojehowski
                                                                                          Rich Wojehowski  5 days back

                                                                                          Nice work Matt. I thought I should mention the terms Nyquist rate and Nyquist Frequency for others to look into if they are curious. Something that some of us use in our day jobs.

                                                                                          • gebiete
                                                                                            gebiete  5 days back

                                                                                            Skip all the way to 9:20, you're welcome.

                                                                                            • Bo Dodge
                                                                                              Bo Dodge  5 days back

                                                                                              I love that Captain D. and Matt were equally dismissive of each other's support drop ins.