VISUALIZING SOUND: Schlieren Photography


I grew up speaking a very specific language known as franglish: a perfect mix of both french and english, stemming from my french upbringing and my english speaking household. Over the years, I acquired an automatic alternation of languages mid-sentence, picking and choosing the words that got closest to the emotion I was hoping to portray. An example: “Mom, where did you put my classeur de maths with the blue carreaux couverture?” Not only did mix words, I also completely reinvented grammatical constructions of sentences. I later added german to the mix, making my vocabulary incredibly precise, but impossible to comprehend for anyone who was not fluent in all three of those languages. My household was bilingual and my primary/secondary education were as well. To put it bluntly, coming here, nobody had any idea what I was talking about.

It led me to constantly consider the weight of my words and the literal meaning of metaphors and expressions. We use the physical to talk about the abstract, but what if the abstract had a physical form?

I rely on my background in science and cognition to create work, this being no different. I was hoping to use the schlieren mirror to visualize the invisible, speech, and the physicality that is associated with language and semantics.



  • Iron 3D printed speech bubble




(see process post







Gesaffelstein at 300fps (gif)


Gesaffelstein, at 300 fps (video)


Whiplash drum solo, at 300 fps (video)


I intend on using the Schlieren for my capstone in order to achieve my first goal, speech. The studio’s mirror is not good enough to show speech by itself, but I am thinking of using a sheet of dry ice to create colliding temperature. Cold air paired with the (real) high speed camera might yield hoped results.

One thought on “cdslls-event”

  1. Anonymous feedback from group critique, 4/13/2017:

    Schlieren photography – visualize speech in an abstract physical form.

    Capturing shooting air vs. vibrations. What do you want to reveal? Visualize inanimate objects. MIT media lab – how objects sound. How do different languages sound ? i.e. do romance languages look a certain way? Have a taxonomy – see what language someone is speaking

    The audio is SOO GOOD

    I love how you start with your personal anecdote

    I also like how you started with a personal anecdote, but it seems to have gone a long distance from “I want to see the difference between French and English” and “I want to visualize differences in the index of refraction of air around a candle”.

    Good process

    Looks insane. So beautiful.

    WIsh you had shown the hot dog

    You are so clever to choose Whiplash for audio +

    Looks great, but there needs to be a tighter relationship between the image and sound. Partially this is because you’re not actually using the ‘real’ sound of the moment in your documentation; your’re overdubbing. The Edgertronic high-speed camera is able to record the sound along with the video.

    It’s important to be clear that this method visualizes differences in the index of refraction of the air (including pressure waves from sound).

    Very interesting. Multiple audio sources which affect the hot air from multiple directions could add extra dimensions of ____