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Sebastian Pannasch, Daniel Selden, Boris Velichkovsky, Bruce Bridgeman; Apparent phi-motion in sequences of Eisenstein's October. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):729. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/11.11.729.
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Perceiving dynamic scenes requires perceptual, attentional, and cognitive processes that generate the impression of real-world motion. Motion can be perceived if two objects are shown at different positions in the visual field. While this is called beta movement the phi-phenomenon represents a special case where the viewer sees ‘objectless motion’ (Wertheimer, 1912). Recent attempts in research has focused on gaining insight into the viewer's mind but filmmakers need to anticipate the manipulation of the viewer's perception and attention during the process of making the film. The present research was inspired by the work of the Russian filmmaker, Sergei Eisenstein (1898–1948), who is credited with inventing the film montage, or sequencing of specifically timed edits for emotional impact. One of the earliest examples for this technique is his silent film October: Ten days that shook the world (1927). Here we analyzed the famous machine gunner sequence from this movie where the viewer perceives the illusion of shooting. To examine if this illusion could be based on apparent phi-motion individual shots were shown as still images while participants had to indicate the most informative region in each shot. The systematic distribution of the regions of highest information together with the presentation time of the shots support the idea that Eisenstein intentionally provoked the viewer's attentional focus back-and-forth shifts within the spatial frame of subsequent shots and at appropriate frequency to induce the impression of objectless motion.
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