Using Rolling Shutter to Create String Oscillations

In a previous post, I’ve explained that rolling shutter is the way that an image is acquired by exposing different parts of an image at different times. We saw that this method can lead to unwanted jello effects. However, we can use the effect of rolling shutter to our advantage. What’s the saying? If you have lemons, make lemonade.

One such way to use a rolling shutter to our advantage is to create beautifully accented waves from the strings on a guitar, harp, etc.


You may have seen footage of a strummed string creating beautifully accented oscillations, and thought the camera was capturing the actual motion of the strings. That’s what I thought too and was dismayed to see that when I filmed guitar strings with my DSLR, I initially could not get those rolling waves to show up in my footage. Then I discovered how to accentuate the effects of the rolling shutter by capturing a minimum number of frames at a fast shutter speed. By doing so we effectively sample only a few short shots which emphasizes the disjointed effects of the rolling shutter. Not sure what I mean? Check out the video below:

Let’s Roll!

In summary, to create the oscillating strings effect use:
1. Slow frame rate.
2. Fast shutter speed.

4 comments for “Using Rolling Shutter to Create String Oscillations

  1. xerto
    March 5, 2015 at 10:23 am

    when I adjust the shutter speed on my Nikon d3100 and I take the video, the video still looks normal. As if the shutterspeed did not even adjust.

    • dvc
      March 6, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      The appearance of different shutter speeds can be very subtle. And generally, it’ll only affect the appearance of motion. Try taking a video of fan blades rotating or a waterfall at 1/32 versus 1/3200 of a second.

    • Jcat
      May 12, 2015 at 5:27 pm

      D3100 probably doesn’t truly have manual shutter speed option (Like my d5100) I had to download a firmware hack for manual video control!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *