Ask a Filmmaker: What Is the Frame Rate of the Human Eye?

Say it with me: The eye is not a camera!
Blade Runner Eye and camera aperture

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the frame rate of the human eye.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the human eye doesn’t have a frame rate.

The way that the ocular goop in our heads perceives the world and the way that a camera “sees” is not 1:1. Though we’ll be the first to admit, the comparison is compelling. It’s a metaphor that at its best intends to invite people into conversations about the technical wizardry behind moving images. And yet, at its worst, the biological metaphor misleads certain cinephiles into the aforementioned fallacy. Namely: our squishy, organic eyes do not see in frame rate. The next time someone says that, smack the ice cream cone out of their hand and tell them I sent you!

Now, the fallaciousness of this whole affair doesn’t mean that comparisons between human perception and its cinematic surrogate aren’t worthwhile. There is absolutely something to be gained from the exercise of myth-busting the arguments that boil down to “well, our eyes can’t even SEE at that high frame rate so what’s the point?” As the video essay below proves, myth-busting the biological argument is an opportunity to talk about a litany of optical phenomena relevant to filmmaking: apparent motion, Bloch’s law, temporal aliasing theory, and much, much more.

That’s right, we’ve tricked you. Welcome to physics class. Pull up a seat.

Watch “What is the Frame Rate of the Human Eye?”

Who made this?

This video essay on the frame rate of the human eye is by Filmmaker IQ is a YouTube channel disseminating all manner of film history and know-how. Their videos range from the highly technical (what to do if your green screen footage has something green in it) to the opinionated (are superhero movies destroying cinema?). Site creator and director John P. Hess is our narrator. You can subscribe to Filmmaker IQ on YouTube here. And you can follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields: Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.