Moving pictures

Once humans were content with staring at rectangles on the wall, the next step was to put them into motion. The phenomenon of stroboscopic apparent motion is the basis for what we call movies or motion pictures today. Flipping quickly through a sequence of pictures gives the illusion of motion, even at a rate as low as two pictures per second. Above ten pictures per second, the motion even appears to be continuous, rather than perceived as individual pictures. One of the earliest examples of this effect is the race horse movie created by Eadward Muybridge in 1878 at the request of Leland Stanford (yes, that one!); see Figure 1.23.

Figure 1.24: A progression of special effects: (a) Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, 1896. (b) A Trip to the Moon, 1902. (c) The movie 2001, from 1968. (d) Gravity, 2013.
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Motion picture technology quickly improved, and by 1896, a room full of spectators in a movie theater screamed in terror as a short film of a train pulling into a station convinced them that the train was about to crash into them (Figure 1.24(a)). There was no audio track. Such a reaction seems ridiculous for anyone who has been to a modern movie theater. As audience expectations increased, so had the degree of realism produced by special effects. In 1902, viewers were inspired by a Journey to the Moon (Figure 1.24(b)), but by 2013, an extremely high degree of realism seemed necessary to keep viewers believing (Figure 1.24(c) and 1.24(d)).

Figure 1.25: A progression of cartoons: (a) Emile Cohl, Fantasmagorie, 1908. (b) Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie, 1928. (c) The Clone Wars Series, 2003. (d) South Park, 1997.
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At the same time, motion picture audiences have been willing to accept lower degrees of realism. One motivation, as for paintings, is to leave more to the imagination. The popularity of animation (also called anime or cartoons) is a prime example (Figure 1.25). Even within the realm of animations, a similar trend has emerged as with motion pictures in general. Starting from simple line drawings in 1908 with Fantasmagorie (Figure 1.25(a)), greater detail appears in 1928 with the introduction of Mickey Mouse(Figure 1.25(b)). By 2003, animated films achieved a much higher degree of realism (Figure 1.25(c)); however, excessively simple animations have also enjoyed widespread popularity (Figure 1.25(d)).

Figure 1.26: Although movie theaters with large screens were available, families were also content to gather around television sets that produced a viewing quality that would be unbearable by current standards, as shown in this photo from 1958.
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Steven M LaValle 2016-12-31