Amazing Brain-Bending Illusions in Honda Car Commercial

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Oct. 26 2013 8:00 AM

This Honda Ad Leaves Me a Little Flat

honda_floating-_car
When this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you're gonna see some serious shift in perception.

Photo by Honda, from the video

The other day, I wrote about an illusion using a pair of sunglasses and how easy it is to fool our brains into seeing things that aren’t there. The maker of the video illusion used distorted pictures to trick you into thinking objects were sitting on a table when they were, in fact, flat drawings.

The advertising people at Honda just released a video that takes similar advantage of our miserably misinterpreting brains, slapping a liberal dose of whimsy into a commercial for the car that is really quite well done:

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I had a pretty broad grin as I watched this, but then I saw that last scene, with the car and man seemingly floating over the ground. I’ve seen that kind of trick before, but then the car drove away, and I realize I’d been had. Watch it again: Did you catch it?

There is a short, vertical, mirrored wall they built to look like the street under the car; see how they cut out two grooves at the top to match the car’s wheels? They had to do that, because otherwise we’d see the car’s real shadow underneath it, instead of the fake one in front of it. You might have to start and stop the video once or twice to see how that was done.

That threw me for a sec, but I’m glad I figured that out. Optical illusions are fascinating, and to me they’re like a puzzle; half the fun is trying to understand how it was done.

Still, I missed part of it. I found out there is a “making of” video as well that’s very fun to watch:

Aha! If you watch the part with the floating car, you can see the fabric cutout of the car shadow is actually only half a car, sliced lengthwise. The vertical mirror reflects it, filling in the other half. Tricksy tricksy.

Many of the other illusions are well-known; the two arches is right out of a Jerry Andrus illusion (it tricks your eyes into thinking a wall is tilted one way when it’s really tilted another), and the two guys swapping positions so that one grows and other shrinks has been around forever. Still, they’re done very well in this ad, and I was delighted to see it all performed so flawlessly.

It just goes to show you: You can’t always believe what you see, and you really, really shouldn’t believe someone when they say, “I know what I saw!”

Because there’s a very good chance they don’t.

Tip o’ the Necker cube to friend o’ the blog Paul Warren.