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March 1996, Week 4


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Evan Cameron <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 21 Mar 1996 07:28:02 -0500
text/plain (68 lines)
Bill Nichol's co-wrote a series of articles (one in Cinema Journal, as I
recall) on the issue some years back; what you want to look at is the
ANSWERING article in the same journal (author's name escapes me) who took
the Nichol's argument to pieces, and gives as good a summary of the
current knowledge of the matter as can now be found.  And yes, the
phemenoma you mention are related.
Evan William Cameron                            Telephone: 416-736-5149
York University - CFT 216 (Film)                Fax:       416-736-5710
4700 Keele Street                               E-mail:    [log in to unmask]
North York, Ontario
Canada  M3J 1P3
On Tue, 19 Mar 1996, Meryem Constance Ersoz wrote:
> I was giving a presentation on early film to an audience of non-academics
> last Friday and was explaining a bit about its pre-history and the
> persistence of vision when an incredibly astute first-grader--in an
> audience otherwise consisting entirely of adults--asked me if it could be
> used to explain why wheels which are going forward sometimes appear to be
> going backward or in reverse of the direction they ought to be spinning
> when they are filmed. Yow. (After my talk, the series organizer mentioned
> to me that this shrewd little guy causes his first-grade teacher a great
> deal of angst and suffering.)
> So I'm kicking the question back to the film list. Can anyone answer this
> for me? Why do wheels, when filmed, sometimes look as if they are
> spinning in a direction which appears to be the opposite of the direction
> which logic tells us they actually must be spinning? Does persistence of
> vision have anything to do with it?
> Also, David Cook's book mentions something called the phi phenomenon
> which combines with persistence of vision to produce the effect of
> continuous motion in film. His explanation of what the phi phenomenon is,
> is not very satisfying, but none of my other film textbooks (Monaco,
> Bordwell and Thompson, Abel, Gollin) seem to elaborate the phi phenomenon
> much more than Cook, if indeed they mention it at all. I'm not quite sure
> if I can distinguish a difference between persistence of vision and the
> phi phenomenon, given the way he explains it.
> Does the phi phenomenon have something to do with this wheel thing? Is
> there a good journal article or something out there in language which I
> can grasp? Awhile back, I read some stuff by perception psychologists,
> hoping to find more about these film effects, but it was more mystifying
> than helpful. I remember reading something in a book edited by de
> Lauretis--THE CINEMATIC APPARATUS?--but, as I recall, the conclusion was
> something along the lines of "current models of the persistence of vision
> are unsatisfying, and we need to re-examine them." But I don't
> remember--or perhaps did not grasp--the updated model.
> Does anyone have a good sound bite about this which they are willing to
> share? Or at least can someone explain that wheel thing in case I bump
> into any more armed and dangerous, precocious first graders?
> Thanks--
> Meryem Ersoz
> University of Oregon
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