Another tech question

From: Jonathan Walley (email suppressed)
Date: Fri Mar 24 2006 - 13:59:23 PST


Despite teaching film studies and self-identifying primarily as a film
academic, I've always tried to have as much technical and practical
film/video information at my fingertips as possible. Frameworks is a
terrific resource for this, as the past few threads demonstrate. Here's
another tech question - I THINK I know the answer, but I'd like to get
some additional input.

I've just read an essay that offers yet another ontology of cinema, and
I believe that it is flawed. The author stipulates that stroboscopy is
an essential characteristic of cinema, partly on the basis that "all
movies" (his words) to date have involved stroboscopy, because the
flicker is necessary for the illusion of motion and/or change on

But as I understand it, the on/off flicker created, for instance, by a
shutter in a projector is not actually necessary to create the
aforementioned illusions. Don't many flatbeds (e.g. Steenbecks and
KEMs) utilize a prism system without a shutter, and therefore without a
flickering light? (and don't high-speed film cameras involve a similar
system?). I assume the same thing could be said of a projecting
praxinoscope? The upshot of this is that the illusion of motion does
not necessarily entail a flicker effect, as long as the series of still
images being projected creates "apparent motion." Hence, while
stroboscopy might create a "superior," clearer image, one could project
a film and have it be recognizable as such without a shutter-based
projection system, no?

Am I right? Half right? Wrong? Thanks in advance for any words of
wisdom - on this specific issue or on the possibilities and pitfalls of
cinematic ontologies in general.

Jonathan Walley
Professor, Cinema Department
Denison University
Granville, Ohio
email suppressed

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