Speed of light: perception and framerate

Lately I have been working on motion perception for my work at EclairColor, and as usual, been by myself in a dark room looking at moving pictures. You know how this feels, right?

As usual, I had fun at playing with my own perception system. As for everything, the perception system is not designed to measure absolute values, it’s designed to detect transitions and give us a kick of dopamine if the transition is not expected. Works pretty well, helped my ancestors survive, and I guess we have that in common.

When I started working on HDR, I found that pretty interesting that we started to trigger effects that were not possible with traditional display technologies: we could now get instant blinding lights and super deep blacks, triggering stronger shots of dopamine caused by the need to make the adaptation mechanism react faster. That effect could be obtained with SDR, but you had to wait for adaptation so you could get the right effect, as used in the 2001 opening sequence.

watch that in the dark

We have a mechanism of adaptation to brightness change, and as any mechanism if things move too fast, like your balance when you miss a step in a staircase, your body reacts and gets your brain to pay more attention; the brain cannot work on detecting all info it gets from all senses all the time, that would require too much energy and a much bigger head. So it works with continuity, and when there’s an unexpected change, the zone in the brain gets activated and analyzes the scene more thoroughly to provide the right reaction. It also introduces the concept of time in the measurements of color, which is almost never taken into account. Our friends looking in the tube in the 30s didn’t have a stopwatch…

What I’ve found during my experiment is that my brain also has a continuity fonction on the framerate, so when changing the framerate from 24 to 48 of some content it reacted and started to analyze the extra frames, but more funnily, though in a logical way, it continued creating information after switching back to 24, and took some time to realize that the framerate had changed (even though I knew exactly when the change happened).

What was even more interesting is once I’ve started to conceptualize that I could enable that “function” in my brain and force the “hyperspeed” effect in real life… pretty much as when I’m cycling downhill or playing video games, but on demand.

What is very interesting with that is that we can really use it as a way to trigger emotional reactions. Our senses are all relative, not absolute, so it’s the changes that create the excitement. With technologies like RealD TrueMotion, Pixelworks TrueCut and the motion vector and GAN based motion interpolation tools available now, there’s a lot of opportunities to create story effects based on speed changes.

Doug Trumbull has paved the way with Showscan and experiments along the years, but now technology makes those experiments much more accessible to any filmmaker. There’s still a lot to learn, there’s been some pretty epic fails, but I’m sure we’ll soon have some great movies using HFR and framerate/shutter angle changes as storytelling tools.

PS: Maybe some of you would be interested in checking if that works with your brain?

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