A Film projector

A Film projector

A Film projector is an opto-mechanical device for displaying motion picture film by projecting it onto a screen. Most of the optical and mechanical elements, except for the illumination and sound devices, are present in Film cameras.

According to the theory of persistence of vision, the perceptual processes of the brain and the retina of the human eye retain an image for a brief moment of time. This theory is said to account for the illusion of motion which results when a series of film images is displayed in quick succession, rather than the perception of the individual frames in the series.

Persistence of vision should be compared with the related phenomena of beta movement and phi movement. A critical part of understanding these visual perception phenomena is that the eye is not a camera, i.e.: there is no “frame rate” or “scan rate” in the eye. Instead, the eye/brain system has a combination of motion detectors, detail detectors and pattern detectors, the outputs of all of which are combined to create the visual experience.

The frequency at which flicker becomes invisible is called the flicker fusion threshold, and is dependent on the level of illumination. Generally, the frame rate of 16 frames per second (frame/s) is regarded as the lowest frequency at which continuous motion is perceived by humans. (Interestingly this threshold varies across different species; a higher proportion of rod cells in the retina will create a higher threshold level.)

It is possible to view the black space between frames and the passing of the shutter by the following technique:
Close your eyelids, then periodically rapidly blink open and closed. If done fast enough you will be able to randomly “trap” the image between frames, or during shutter motion. This will not work with television due to the persistence of the phosphors nor with LCD or DLP light projectors due to the continuity of image, although certain color artifacts may appear with some digital projection technologies.

Silent films usually were not projected at constant speeds [1] but rather were varied throughout the show at the discretion of the projectionist, often with some notes provided by the distributor. Speeds ranged from about 18 frame/s on up – sometimes even faster than modern sound film speed (24 frame/s). Contrary to received opinion, 16 frame/s – though sometimes used as a camera shooting speed – was dangerously inadvisable for projection, due to the high risk of the nitrate-base prints catching fire in the projector. (A dramatic rendition of a nitrate print fire and its potentially devastating effects is famously found in Nuovo Cinema Paradiso, which revolves around the goings-on of a projectionist.)

Since the birth of sound film, virtually all film projectors in commercial Film theaters project at a constant speed of 24 frame/s. This speed was chosen for both financial and technical reasons. When Warner Bros. and Western Electric were trying to find the proper projection speed for the new sound pictures, Western Electric went to the Warner Theater in LA and noted the average speed at which films were projected there. They set that as the sound speed at which a satisfactory reproduction and amplification of sound could be conducted. There are some specialist formats (e.g. Showscan and Maxivision) which project at higher rates—60 frames/sec for Showscan and 48 for Maxivision. The Hobbit was shot at 48 frames/sec and projected at the higher frame rate at specially equipped theaters

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