Monday, August 29, 2016

Just Fun: Amazing Stairwell Illusion - the Escherian Stairwell

Watch this amazing video of people in an apparent closed-loop stairway.

Many people throughout the world are currently being fooled by this tour of the Escherian Stairwell located in the Frank B. Gannett building at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The tour is an elaborate hoax created by RIT film/animation graduate student Michael Lacanilao and features people experiencing the stairwell illusion for the first time.  YouTube video link

M. C. Escher Ascending and Descending  woodcut print, 1960

Some background on the artist M.C. Escher:

Maurits Cornelis Escher (17 June 1898 – 27 March 1972) was a Dutch graphic artist who made mathematically inspired woodcuts, lithographs, and mezzotints.

Early in his career he drew inspiration from nature, making studies of insects, landscapes, and plants such as lichens, all of which he reused as details in his artworks. He travelled in Italy and Spain, sketching buildings, townscapes, architecture and the tilings of the Alhambra and La Mezquita, Cordoba, and became steadily more interested in their mathematical structure.

His work features mathematical objects and operations including impossible objects, explorations of infinity, reflection, symmetry, perspective, truncated and stellated polyhedra, hyperbolic geometry, and tessellations.

M. C. Escher Relativity  woodcut print, 1953

Oh yes, here is the solution to the illusion.

From Yahoo Answers:
The secret is that it's a film maker's illusion, in reality it's impossible in 3 dimensions. I was one of the around 30,000 people at the "Imagine RIT" festival on May 4. I had noticed the Escherian stairwell in the list of exhibits and realized that it couldn't be "real" but was interested in seeing what it was all about. There were signs pointing to the Escherian stairwell all over campus but we soon realized that they were pointing in random directions. We finally found the classroom where the film maker played the video seen on the Internet plus a shorter one where he explained that it was his master's project and what he was trying to accomplish. He also gave a short live talk and answered questions. Nobody in the showing that I went to asked about how it was actually accomplished but it was obviously just clever editing.

I love the stairwell. The stairwell is obviously real. They don't fake people going up and down the stairs. They also do not do a split screen edit. I believe we see exactly what each of the cameras see, at least one camera on the lower floor and at least one camera on the higher floor. The film is nicely edited. 

The illusion, of course, is that we have twins. The host has his twin, so in the one scene, as the first host goes out of view, going up on the left, we suddenly see his twin brother coming up on the right. No editing there. I have seen explanations on the Internet proving that this is one person and how it had to have been done, but Occam s Razor does imply that the simplest explanation should suffice. 

The second illusion is one that I'm sure they repeated multiple times as a practical joke on unsuspecting students, and they picked the best unrehearsed reaction. The host was on one floor, his twin brother on the other floor, and since the camera followed her, it meant that there was no split screening involved, but nice editing between or among the cameras. 

The third illusion, with many students holding hands as the host makes his way back downstairs was accomplished with one more pair of twins, one near the top of the chain of students, the other near the bottom. 

A wonderful illusion filmed on a real set. In the RIT film, there are several floors and twin actors. The action is not broken, but continuous as a person moves from one floor to the other. But BBT stops filming, moves a few things around while the boys move to the opposite end of the stairs, then filming begins again. 

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