Time Loops Through Trippy Portals in 360° Video

Mathematician and artist Henry Segerman makes time fold in on itself in a spherical droste video.

by DJ Pangburn
Jan 28 2016, 9:05pm

Screencaps by the author

In spherical video, 360° of footage are squeezed into an equirectangular projection—think of Earth’s sphere packed onto a two-dimensional rectangular map to properly understand. As eleVR’s Emily Eifler notes in a Vidcon talk, the options for editing spherical video are limited: users can’t edit a spherical video as a sphere because areas get distorted and parts of scenes cannot be rotated along any potential axis, amongst other issues. But frequent eleVR collaborator Henry Segerman, an artist and assistant professor of mathematics at Oklahoma State University, has been working with a way to transform spherical videos despite these problems, and has recently showcased his results in two videos released over the last several weeks.

Using a mathematical operation called a Möbius transformation, Segerman is able to create a zoom effect with 360° footage shot on his Ricoh Theta S camera, which results in a "droste effect," or, the look of video within video. This experimental 360° droste plays around with the idea of an endless loop, but also messes with the concept of linear time. The various filmed versions of Segerman are in a constant state of saying hello to past versions of himself. To the right, as Segerman remarks in the video, is a “weird petal portal” that holds future versions of himself, while to the left in a window, past Segermans walk around his apartment and juggle.

“I was thinking about droste pictures, but as far as I know nobody had done them with spherical images,” Segerman tells The Creators Project. “But we have this Möbius transformation kind of zoom, so we can do droste, and then we have video. So, what is the interesting way to make droste work with time? [Well], having it loop was the idea, which means you have to go back in time. And that works nicely with going through the frame to a different point in time.”

Segerman says there is nothing in the video that is computer-generated. He and eleVR are already thinking of future applications, including something with a musical loop—a musical canon fed through the Möbius transformation's droste effect.

“The multiple times work well with a musical round, with a number of voices offset in time,” Segerman says. “I'm also thinking about using different kinds of transformations. Möbius transformations are relatively simple functions of the complex number plane, and there are lots and lots of other functions to play with and see what kinds of visual effects they make.”

Click here to see more work by Henry Segerman. To play with the code, head over to Github.


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Youtube 360 Video
infinite loop
360 degree video
Henry Segerman
Möbius transformation
spherical droste video
spherical video