For a century, moving images have been captivating millions around the world. Yet many of the attractions which bring people into cinema theatres and, more recently, which fix their eyes to television screens for hours on end, are only illusions. We say "movies" but no movement exists in film -- it is produced in the spectator's mind. The mechanics of this illusion is explained today with reference to two optical phenomena: The persistence of vision, described theoretically by Peter Mark Roget in 1824, and the so-called phi-phenomenon, also known as "stroboscopic effect," discovered by the gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer.

These two effects permit the human brain to perceive a series of related static images (more precisely, motion phases) as a continuous motion. It is this illusion that permits the existence of moving pictures and, more recently, television. Unlike the motion pictures, which need only the illusion of motion, the electronic images of television and video create both the illusion of motion and image. These illusions are the sine qua non prerequisite of the audiovisual media. Without them, they would not exist. Yet they are not the only illusions which the film and television media produce.

Film's Illusions: Kuleshov Revisited


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