Benedict Cumberbatch aside, the best part of Marvel’s Doctor Strange movie was the animated spells the magical characters could generate out of thin air. Given our world lacks real magic, a Japanese cosplayer has found a way to simulate the same effect using a modded Nerf blaster and a spinning LED wand.
The holographic images are created using an effect called persistence of vision, where the human eye holds onto images for a split second longer than light rays are actually hitting the retina. It’s what allows us to interpret the images flashing across the pixels on a screen as moving video, instead of just a slideshow.
Attached to the end of this customized Nerf blaster is a 3D-printed adapter holding a Phantom 3D LED wand which you can think of as a very thin slice of an LED TV. As the wand spins, the LEDs along its length flash in specifically-timed patterns to fool the human eye into seeing 360-degree animations.
At the end of the video the modder reveals some of the software they used to create the animated spells, but it unfortunately doesn’t appear as if they’re going to make them available for download. So if you’re inspired to create a Doctor Strange costume for Halloween in a few months, you’re going to have to figure out that part all by yourself.