An optical illusion is a kind of visual trick where what your brain thinks you see is actually different from reality. In their new music video “The Writing’s On The Wall,” the rock band OK Go constructs illusions and then deconstructs them from another angle. Rolling Stone reported that the music video took the band nearly three weeks and 50 takes to get right.
The song itself is about miscommunication between two people right before they break up.
Several of the illusions were inspired by the Swiss artist Felice Varini. From one angle, Varini’s installation of “Dynamo” at the Grand Palais in Paris looks like a web of connected circles:
But from the other angle, you can see that the connectedness is a perfectly constructed illusion:
Why do optical illusions work? They rely on the tiny delay between when we “see” something — and when we perceive what it is.
“When light hits our retina, it takes about one-tenth of a second for our brain to translate that signal into perception,” explains Nic Halverson at Discovery News. “Evolutionary neurobiologist Mark Changizi says this neural delay makes our brains generate images of what it thinks the world will look like in one-tenth of a second. It’s not always right.”
In other words: Our perceptions are, to some extent, predictive. We perceive what we expect to see until our brain is presented with conflicting information. That’s why it’s so visually jarring when an illusion reveals itself.
Here are some of our favourite optical illusions from OK Go’s new video.
Watch these stairs disappear…
…and this cube too.
The two illusions above both incorporate solid objects and painted surfaces in order to trick your eyes. For example, the first four yellow stairs are solid. But the last two stairs are painted onto the floor and the pole in the background to create an illusion of depth. Once he steps “through” the last two steps, your eyes then register that those steps aren’t real.
The same trick is used with the cubes. At first it appears that all of the cubes are solid. However, once he steps down and “through” the cube, your eye then registers that the cube in the foreground is painted onto the floor and the other surrounding cube surfaces in order to create an illusion of depth.
Notice anything weird about this bike ride?
At first glance, it seems like he is riding a bike with something on his back. However, at the end of the clip you notice that he is actually lying on his back, riding the bike upside down and being pulled along the grey platform by a string.
Do you see the face?
As the camera pans upward, it seems like there is a pile of junk to the left of the ladder. But if you look closely, the items actually form a collage that is the reverse image of the man’s face. The red stapler corresponds to his lips. And the spatula sitting on the paint pallette corresponds to his ear.
Here’s the still image so you can get a better look:
This guy seems to have two umatching unmatching heads.
For this two-face illusion, it appears upon closer inspection that it is actually the same guy, who has shaved the beard on one side of his face and donned a wig. Later in the video (see the cubes GIF above), he appears with half a beard.
Mirrors can be deceiving.
In the first frame of the GIF, the cameraman (in red) is facing a mirror, and you see his reflection. There are three mirrors lined up in a row. In between each mirror, another band member appears in the frame holding the same position.
And here’s the huge team of people who made the video possible.
The band’s latest album “Hungry Ghosts” is set to be released in October. Watch the full video below.
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