February 1, 2021

Motion Amplification® in Action: A Closer Look at Machine Vibration

Jenna Johns

Machines are made to move, but when they vibrate and move in unplanned ways, damage and physical wear on equipment and surrounding structures can result.


The back and forth oscillations of a vibrating machine can be a sign and symptom of trouble. As drive motors, pumps, bearings, shafts, gears, and other mechanical components vibrate over time, damage to these pieces can build up and, in turn, damage adjacent components and structures.

Industrial and engineered devices are made to operate smoothly. In some cases, vibration is part of normal machine operation. For example, internal combustion engines, reciprocating pumps and compressors, and gear drives vibrate under normal operation. In other cases, unchecked vibration will deteriorate and even destroy equipment.

Fortunately, motion enhancement technology can detect the subtle movements produced by vibration. Specifically, RDI’s patented technology uses Motion Amplification® vibration analysis to measure deflection, displacement, movement, and vibration not visible to the human eye. By looking at some of the properties and principles of vibration and movement, the finite details of what RDI’s Motion Amplification® camera and software measures becomes more clear.

Movement and Vibration

When any object oscillates, it vibrates by definition. Using a high-speed camera and Motion Amplification® technology to record a vibrating object, every pixel becomes its own independent sensor, creating millions of data points instantly. These collected vibration data points are then processed to literally see the vibration of a component or structure. The video-processing method can detect and measure tiny displacements, which indicate movement, and this data can be used to calculate vibration displacements, velocities, frequencies, and time waveforms for everything visible in the scene.

The effects of vibration and movement include accelerated wear and reduced equipment lifespan and energy efficiency, noise, damaged equipment, and less safe working conditions. Suffice it to say, movement and vibration are not small matters.


Deflection indicates the distance or angle that an object bends or twists from its original position when acted on by a force. As with other forms of movement pertaining to vibration, deflection is too subtle to detect with the unaided eye. However, Motion Amplification® software can measure deflection using pixel-by-pixel analysis.

In vibration analysis, the operating deflection shape (ODS) indicates the deflection of a structure at a particular frequency relative to a specific point on the structure. Essentially, ODS aims to reveal how much a structure is moving, where it is moving the most, and what direction it’s moving in. RDI’s Motion Amplification® technology enables users to create a real time visual of every movement in the scene without the use of attached sensors or interpolation. A Motion Amplification® video is truly visualizing actual measurements without making assumptions about what is happening between sensor points and the process from setup to finished result can be completed in a matter of minutes. All of these indicators are key measurements of vibration analysis that can be used to determine the root cause and extent of vibration damage or problems.


Displacement refers to the distance that an element or object has moved from its original location and can be measured in terms of distance and in terms of rotation. When displacement occurs among machinery and similar industrial equipment, it can contribute to equipment imbalance, looseness, and other issues.

Displacement is most prevalent when vibrations occur at low frequencies, with the extent of displacement decreasing as vibration frequency increases. Because of this, accelerometers are not as sensitive and are often not the ideal instrument for measuring displacement. Eddy current probes and lvdt sensors are the standard for this measurement but are very difficult to use. Given its visual capabilities and precision, Motion Amplification® can often more readily pinpoint exactly where displacement is occurring and accurately measure that displacement compared to conventional vibration analysis techniques.

The Motion Amplification® Solution

Video Motion Amplification® offers cutting-edge, cost-effective means of quickly and precisely measuring the extent of deflection, displacement, and other parameters of vibration and movement that could be harming your machinery and operations.

You can learn more about RDI Motion Amplification® and about RDI’s products and patented technology that make analysis possible.



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