Video shows the shape of a flock of starlings evading a hawk

Originally published at: Video shows the shape of a flock of starlings evading a hawk | Boing Boing


That is remarkably similar to images of crystals growing and other fractal sorts of effects. Very soothing to the eye. Probably not so much for the starlings trying not to become hawk food, but nonetheless…


Murmuration is one of my favorite English words. So delicious to say


These are lovely moving images. We don’t often get to visualize flock behavior in this clear way.
It’s interesting that this is a subtractive process, as a bird is represented by an absence of light.
(Of course, my brain is thinking about the algorithms used in post-production.)


Again, he took thousands of split-second images, then used them to produce a moving image.

In other words a ‘movie’ ?

Looks like iron filings with a magnet under a piece of paper. Neat on its own, but I guess I prefer to see the “bird, bird, bird” that the artist is abstracting out.


Because of this technique, I see for the first time that there will be one bird that flies alone on a different (often opposite) path of the main flock, usually right in the middle. What is the purpose of that, I wonder.


It’s an art piece, so I can’t blame the artist for obscuring the details in return for a commentary on form. However, I suspect that it would be more scientifically useful to study the structures in 3d, or perhaps from the vantage point of any particular bird.

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Is that the hawk? Hard to tell.


I thought that was the hawk as well

OK, I’m an idiot! Of course, the hawk makes sense. Thanks.

It’s a movie that has had many frames added together (negatively) to produce a trail for each bird. It’s similar to leaving the shutter open for a long time, but in negative. I doubt that you’ve ever seen such a movie before.

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I wonder about the balance this response entails. All that effort to preserve one member of the flock.
Hmm >wise simile goes here< Anyone?

I didn’t notice that, but I had a related thought: if hundreds of birds are going to work as a single entity, then rather than expend this sustained effort, wouldn’t it be more efficient to send one bird directly into the hawk’s beak while the rest flew calmly on their way? After all, given that they can’t outrun or outlast a hawk in the air, it’s not going to leave them alone until it gets one.

Of course, they would need a way to elect the sacrifice, and now I’m wondering if that is partly what these maneuvers serve to accomplish – perhaps it is a kind of competition among the starlings.

I’m not sure what you mean by “negatively” and “in negative” there.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think any single frame of the posted video would be exactly the same as a long-exposure image.

What’s different is that you couldn’t normally produce a movie this way because each frame essentially contains the frames before it. Each frame is a moving window mushing some number of previous frames together. But you could probably take a normally-shot movie and create a similar effect in editing software.

Watch the video again, and pay attention to how dark the image is. It starts out rather light, and grows darker over a few seconds. At the end of each scene, it gets brighter. Each frame of the original video is as bright as the first frame. The creator has superimposed several frames of birds to obtain the tracks that you see.
So they’ve accumulated dark spots, which is would be done in the old days by stacking the transparent positive film frames, causing light to be blocked by any of the individual bird image spots.
Of course, this stacking was done with a computer, but the effect is the same: the darkness is added, not the light.

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Furthermore, the darkening indicates when the birds spend more time on the frame in one x/y coordinate than elsewhen. This indicates slower transverse flight, usually acomplished by flying towards or away from the camera (or flying upwards/slower).

Similar effect.

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