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date: 18 February 2020

persistence of vision

A Dictionary of Film Studies

Annette Kuhn,

Guy Westwell

persistence of vision 

The capacity of the eye to maintain an image on the retina for a moment after the image has disappeared: if successive images follow quickly enough, these will be perceived as a single continuously moving image. Films consist of a series of still images (frames) that capture the progress of a subject in motion. With the eye holding an image for about one-third of a second, persistence of vision will be achieved at a rate of 16 frames per second and above. Another explanation for the illusion of movement created by films adduces the phi phenomenon (phi effect, or phi leap): the perception of motion produced when, for example, two stationary and spatially separated lights are flashed in brief succession. Animation makes use of persistence of vision to create the illusion of movement by photographing drawings, puppets, or inanimate objects frame by frame. See also projector; psychology and film; series photography; stop motion.