Video cameras with contrast and black level controls can yield polarized light and differential interference contrast microscope images with unprecedented image quality, resolution, and recording speed. The theoretical basis and practical aspects of video polarization and differential interference contrast microscopy are discussed and several applications in cell biology are illustrated. These include: birefringence of cortical structures and beating cilia in Stentor, birefringence of rotating flagella on a single bacterium, growth and morphogenesis of echinoderm skeletal spicules in culture, ciliary and electrical activity in a balancing organ of a nudibranch snail, and acrosomal reaction in activated sperm.

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