29 May 2010

The Magic of Missing Motion-Blur

I just sent this geek-out breakdown analysis of this video to a friend and figured I’d post it too. This is an incredibly interesting video.

29 May 2010

I just sent this geek-out breakdown analysis of this video to a friend and figured I’d post it too. This is an incredibly interesting video.

In a blog-interview the creator says he shot the majority of the project at 4fps. Film is shot at 24fps and US television is essentially 30fps – so while I don’t know for sure, I would guess the project was finalized at 24fps because digital artists generally do as much as possible to emulate film – meaning we’re seeing 6 seconds of life for every second of video.

That’s not odd. That’s a time-lapse.

But what makes this so interesting, first off, is the lack of motion-blur. Motion blur is an affect that that both film and video are liable to due to the fact that they have to expose/capture so many images each second. The best example is what happens at the end of this video when the car lights are streaking – or, so to say, their motion is blurring together – because there’s so little light that it takes 1-2 seconds of exposure to achieve a defined image, but in those one to two seconds objects have moved, causing motion blur. The same effect is always happening in film and video when anything moves. It happens on a much subtler level, but it’s still noticeable, but since this type of subtle motion-blur is and was and always shall be a part of movies it is therefore one of those unconscious expectations we have when preparing to view a movie. And the large majority of non-object-focused time-lapses are shot on video, so the motion blur persists.

This video immediately comes off as hand-animated/stop-motion animation because of our past viewing experiences with our childhood stop motion Christmas-time movies where there isn’t any persistent motion blur because actual motion isn’t being captured – so it instantly taps into a warm fuzzy feeling of childhood simplicity and nostalgia. And also shakes the brain because we immediately realize that what we’re seeing isn’t real and we suspend our belief… only to experience unconscious confusion as we come to realize that we *are* seeing real life.

He also masterfully added to its ability to seem like a stop-motion piece by creating an incredibly narrow depth of field in post-production. Depth of field is essentially how much of the plane/world/scene is in focus. The better the camera lens, the more you can compress the depth of field. With a good lens, there could be a person 10 feet from the camera and another person three more feet behind them (and a bit to the side) and the lens, if you set it for it, would give you a depth of field narrow enough to make one person in focus and the other person out of focus – your “field of focus” is less than 3 feet in depth. Three feet is a pretty narrow depth of field and a sign of quality lenses which is a sign of high production value which a lot of the childhood stop-motion movies had.

How this applies stems from the fact that the minimum depth of field attainable increases exponentially as the distance from the lens increases. If that same first person were 50 feet away and the second was, this time, 15 feet farther (further?) back, it wouldn’t really matter because they would both be in focus (or both out of focus) because at that distance the essentially becomes infinitely deep.

And so the reverse is also true – DoF decreases exponentially as distance from the camera decreases. If that first person were 1 foot away from the lens there wouldn’t just be a focus difference between them and the second person, there’s be a focus difference between their nose and their ears. And thus we arrive at the unconscious expectation we have of stop-motion films where the objects and characters we see are miniatures and are often one to two feet from the camera lens, therefore creating a consistently narrow depth of field in all those movies we have fond childhood memories of and feeling about. Therefore the narrow DoF he generates masterfully adds to the stop-motion feel that the lack of motion blur already lent the movie.

Boom. Instant nostalgia combined with a subject matter that we consciously know is real and a production style that makes us subconsciously dismiss that which we know to be real as fake. Incredible.

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