Samworth's Snippets

Why use video?

by Mike Samworth

I am interested in Protozoa. There are none more beautiful or more generally attractive to observers than the Stentors, well known to many microscopists so far as their more obvious characters are concerned, but which present considerable difficulty when it is desired to make out their details of structure.

It is only by the frequent examination of a great number of individuals, and making the most of fortunate opportunities, that the various organelles can be distinctly seen. Often there is disappointment felt as many efforts have to be made before success is achieved.

Drawings in texts exhibiting anatomical details are almost invariably the result of combining in one view parts that cannot be simultaneously seen in the living organism. One Stentor shown left, for example, may at one time show the mouth or gullet well, while the nucleus is scarcely visible, and some other details cannot be seen at all. Another time the nucleus may be prominent throughout more or less of its length, and a complete delineation can only be made by putting together the information contained in a long series of observations. As microscopists if we are not fully aware of this fact we are not only puzzled, but are discouraged by the wide difference between what we see and what we find drawn by others.

Previously, the only remedy against this disappointment was patience, and a knowledge of how to use the published figures. I believe there is another solution open to the microscopist of the nineties, namely video. Recording the organisms on tape allows future study and the option of slow-motion or even still- frame images. This makes it far easier to piece together detailed structure of the organism in question. Indeed, moving images often appear to show greater detail to the human eye.

I have borrowed a video camera for mounting on my microscope a couple of times now and am considering purchasing one for myself eventually. Though not able to get to see any of the very few texts published on the subject, it is interesting that much of that I have seen is written by amateurs. Certainly it is a rapidly developing area of microscopy. If anyone has any particular advice or tips from their experience with the medium, then do not hesitate to forward this to the Editor (see contact below) for inclusion on the site.

Image derived from a still of a video by Maurice Smith.

Read an illustrated Micscape Article to learn more about Stentor.

Download a Micscape Movie of Stentor.


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