Artist Creates Mesmerizing Time-Lapse-like Videos that Trace the Flight Paths of Birds

Artist and professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, Dennis Hlynsky, is interested in studying the way small-brained animals flock in groups. Using a special editing technique, he can visualize the paths of each individual in the flock, and though he’s recorded everything from ants to fish to flies, the most fascinating examples of this technique in action involve flocks of birds.

We can’t think of a perfect term to describe Hlynsky’s technique, so we’re going with ‘time-lapse-like’ (feel free to suggest your own alternatives). Most of the image is captured the normal way, but the birds themselves leave behind a record of their flight, twisting and turning into captivating patterns that are captured on the screen instead of fading away.

On his website, Hlynsky explains how it’s done:

I call [the process] “extruded time”. There are no digital additions to the video. They are processed by stacking a sequence of frames and adding the darkest pixels together. The frame at the beginning of the stack is dropped and the next frame in sequence is added to the end of the stack.

This process is repeated until the entire video clip is rendered. I do not use time-lapse in the traditional sense of the word but offer a glimpse seconds long of the paths these creatures take. I find each “flock” has a form, a rhythm, and pattern to the glyphs they leave as they perambulate.

Here are a few more examples of extruded time in action:

To see more videos like this — the ants ones are actually pretty cool as well — or if you want to follow Hlynsky as he creates more of these videos, head over to his website of follow his profile on Vimeo.

(via Imaging Resource)

  • name

    by “special technique” you mean just apply the echo filter in after effect.

  • Vin Weathermon

    save yourself some boredom and go to 2:42 on the first one for a minute or so…jeez way too long.

  • ms

    Too long, but at least it’s something unique. We’ve all seen clouds bubbling by, sunrises in the desert and the spinning stars at night 10,000 times. Oh and thanks for not adding in some horrible, over dramatic music. :)

  • Fed Up with weirdos like you

    He should go to Detroit…plenty of “small brained animals there” to photograph

  • Alan Klughammer

    Kind of reminds me of my university days…
    Seriously, maybe a still from one of the videos might be more interesting, but then again, I am not a video guy…

  • agour

    sounds like you need a snickers

  • Jake

    I would love to see him do this with a murmuration of swifts or starlings.

  • Rabin Rana


  • Virgil H. Soule

    It’s a multiple-image technique. Each of the trails is made bt a single bird. When the bird is flying fast, the images are separated. When the bird is slowing to land, they bunch together. It’s fun watching when the flock leaves all at once. Cool!