Features and Columns · Movies

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
Warner Bros.
By  · Published on May 24th, 2023

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 has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.