Soap Bubbles Become Terrifying Magnetic Ooze

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Kim Pimmel is a designer, filmmaker, and inventor whose Compressed series taps the science of magnetism, capillary action, and fluid dynamics to create gorgeous cinematic time-lapse videos that look out of this world. This video transforms ordinary soap and water into an ominous, alien bubblescape. 

Ferrofluid is essentially liquid with polarized metal particles suspended in it, so that it responds to a magnetic field. Capillary action is another spooky attractive force that arises from the polarity of molecules in a liquid; it's the adhesive force that draws water up a narrow straw against gravity. 

Pimmel explains how he created Compressed 02 in an interview below. 

The Atlantic: What inspired you to start dumping ferrous liquids into soap and water?

Kim Pimmel: Play and exploration are an important part of my process, so when I noticed how bubbles absorb liquids by capillary action, I went to town with bubble and liquid combinations. Ferrofluid was my final choice for the video since I could manipulate it using magnetism in addition to it looking great during the capillary process.

It seems like you custom built a lot of your equipment — including dolly and intervalometer. How did you approach the process of turning all these materials and devices into unique images?  

I developed my motion control based on the storyboards I had sketched out. Since I wanted a few simple dolly type motions, I used an old flatbed scanner with an Arduino microcontroller to create a variety of camera movements. I made the custom intervalometer after my stop-motion Light Drive project because I wanted to have total control over the timing between each frame of the time lapse. Not everything was custom built -- in fact I opted against the homebrew macro lens I had used for Compressed 01, using a Nikon macro lens instead to allow for more flexibility in the photographs.

What’s next for the series?

I would like Compressed 03 to feature typographic elements.

Pimmel's Light Drive is a stop-motion video created with a record player and programmable light modules, including electro luminescent wire and lasers: 

To see more work by Kim Pimmel, visit http://cargocollective.com/kimpimmel.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2011/08/soap-bubbles-become-terrifying-magnetic-ooze/244378/