Persistence of vision

From: Mike Punt (
Date: Thu Mar 16 2006 - 05:51:15 PST

This explanation of cinema is really rather irresponsible

"Persistence of vision accounts for our failure to notice that a motion
picture screen is dark about half the time, and that a television image is
just one bright, fast, little dot sweeping the screen. Motion pictures show
one new frame every 1/24th of a second. Each frame is shown three times
during this period. The eye retains the image of each frame long enough to
give us the illusion of smooth motion."

"The Myth of Persistence of Vision Revisited," Journal of Film and Video,
Vol. 45, No. 1 (Spring 1993): 3-12.

By Joseph and Barbara Anderson



Several years ago we wrote an article entitled "The Myth of Persistence of
Vision" which appeared in the Journal of the University Film Association in
the fall of 1978 (Anderson and Fisher). In it we offered a considerable
volume of evidence that the concept "persistence of vision" was an
inaccurate and inadequate explanation of the apparent motion found in a
motion picture. At the time we thought the article had laid the matter to
rest. We had pronounced persistence of vision dead. And frankly, we
expected never again to hear the term, other than in an historical context.

     Now, more than a decade later, we are drawn once more to the myth of
persistence of vision. Why? Because it is still with us. [1] We read a
student paper, and we cringe. We attend the lecture of a seasoned film
scholar, and we cringe. We cringe not only because they have chosen to
perpetuate the notion of persistence of vision, but because they apparently,
even at this late date, do not understand its implications. By this time
most film scholars seem to have heard of the inadaquacy of the term
"persistence of vision." Some have mistakenly substituted the generally
misunderstood term "phi phenomenon" as an explanation of filmic motion, and
many still cling to the myth. [2]

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