Most of the regular waking cognition experiences a continuous visual field. One object of focus flows into another. Objects out of focus are pushed to the periphery. A person may move one's view around in a 360 degree sphere, but from a single point in space. For example, moving eyes away from the monitor towards the desk keeps the monitor in the field of view, just moves it to the periphery.

Now, as I'm looking at modern day (2012) movies and commercials, I notice that a lot of them feature abrupt changes from one image to another, from one camera angle to another. It is as if the perspective shifts about in space.

Quite a lot of these image changes are very brief - just a few seconds long. For example, a conversation on screen may have camera on one actor talking, then jump to show the other actor's reaction, then snap back. Commercials are even worse - if viewed out of the corner of one's eye, they frequently appear as just a series of flashes.

I'm interested if there's any science behind these abrupt changes in camera angles and flashes of images. For example, I know that a human eye needs about 25 frames per second to perceive fluid motion on the screen. A refresh rate of 60 hertz is the minimum to avoid eye strain. Are there any similar numbers related to the duration of exposure to the stimulus, for example(fake numbers):

  • 0.75 seconds to capture emotion on the human's face
  • 2 seconds to comprehend action (ex: car driving on screen)
  • 3 seconds flash of explosion is enough to produce excitement
  • 14 seconds to become familiar with the scene
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ this question is very vague/broad. could you narrow it down perhaps? $\endgroup$
    – Jeff
    Jan 6, 2013 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ The only way I can try to clarify this is by looking at internet porn addiction. In such case, a brain dopamine and dopamine D2 receptor is involved. Apparently, a porn user is seeking the same level of intensity, but with novelty, hence trying many different clips, not the same one. Maybe this is part of the reason why camera angles change - to infuse more "novelty" into a movie/commercial $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Jan 14, 2013 at 2:51

1 Answer 1


Admittedly, this question has intrigued me also. This is a partial answer, as the article below deals with perceptions borne of camera angles of a person, as an example of the effect of camera angles.

According to the article "The influence of camera angle on comprehension and retention of pictorial events" (Kraft, 1987), camera angles significantly influence viewers' mental construct of the story representations. These representations are related to our experience with the real world around us.

Kraft summarises previous research in saying that there is a connotation that:

physically looking down at an actor translates into looking down on that actor; physically looking up at an actor translates into looking up to that actor.

This also could apply to characters. Thus influencing our perception of the person and the events surrounding them.

In regards to scenes:

by changing vertical camera angle, one changes the real life consequences of the pictured scene.

These connotations are often 'woven into the storyline'.

I hope this helps


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