The New Optical Illusions

Earlier this week we had our minds melted by the o-fficial 2010 Illusion of the Year, one of those trippy, perspective-shifting models. But come on, this is 2010! Can't we do something a little In fact, many people are.

The real trailblazer here is Mystery Guitar Man, a sunglasses-wearing Brazilian who weekly serves up smart, snappy musical illusions that blur the line between clever camerawork and post-production trickery. Here's one of his latest videos, which he claims was shot entirely in one take, a la Hitchcock's Rope. High concept stuff! His other videos are no less impressive. At this point, he's definitely the closest thing we have to a YouTube Houdini.

If Mystery Guitar Man is the true rock star of the YouTube illusion scene, then Brusspup is an indie illusion darling. He's best known for his anamorphic tape-based illusions, in which walls strewn with painters tape snap to form a tight image—a peace sign, a Nintendo controller, a Back to the Future DeLorean—when viewed from a certain perspective. But don't let Brusspup's tape-love fool you into thinking he's some sort of luddite—as this video shows, he does high tech trickery with the best of them. Check out his entire oeuvre on his YouTube channel.


Then there are the one hit wonders, like YouTube user joejoeMan923, who has racked up over 3 million views on his hole-in-the-hand illusion. The technique used to achieve the eerie effect has been debated hotly in the video's comments for the last three years, despite joejoe's admission that it was a green screen/chroma key trick in the video's description. Oh, YouTube commenters.

While the previous individuals used YouTube as a platform for sharing their illusions with the masses, Samsung hopped on board to promote a new product and approached matters with a different emphasis: speed. In this popular clip, a Samsung-sponsored illusionist sprints through 10 stunts in under two minutes.

There's another category of clips in which, instead of using being used to create new illusions, technology is put to work to illuminate old ones. Everyone's seen this sort of comparative color trickery on paper before, but when you see it in irrefutable video, it's all the more amazing (and rage-inducing.)

The internet has sped up the satire cycle to the point of being nearly instantaneous, but sometimes 21st Century comedians have to reach into the past for their laughs, as College Humor did with this clip. Everyone knows the old woman/young woman illusion, but no one knew how it would play out in three dimensions. Until now.

Of course, as YouTube illusions became more popular, some pranksters seized the opportunity to scare the shit out of a wide-eyed, unsuspecting internet audience. The last-second-scary-face fake-out illusion became so prevalent in the community that many videos today include the assurance "no scary pop ups!!!!" in their descriptions. Sometimes it's a lie.

Much as it has for cats and funny local news affiliate bloopers, YouTube has reinvigorated interest in illusions both old and new. I just hope that when it comes time to name the official 2011 Illusion of the Year, the powers that be at least take Brusspup into consideration. If he hasn't burned his house down by then.



I don't see the spinning starfighter illusion in #4 around the :42 mark. What is the illusion part supposed to be? At the end the camera moves to the side so you can see it's actually three dimensional, but that was obvious to me the whole time. Is that why I didn't see it?