Animation, films and television “work” exactly because we humans don’t perceive the fact that the illusion of lifelike motion can be created from a succession of quickly changing still images.

You intellectually know that a movie is just a bunch of still photos presented really fast. But what you perceptually know is that it is believably realistic. Our threshold for fooling ourselves about that experience is remarkably low.

  • Conventional movie film changes at 24 frames per second.
  • Conventional video changes at 30 frames per second.

You could engineer in more changes per second or increase the resolution of the images, but – for the most part – we just wouldn’t notice the difference. Digital images – which were laughably crude, chunky and clunky only a few years ago – now far outstrip our perceptual threshold.

In the usability game, perception is everything.

Seeing is believing. Sort of.

One of our first object lessons came with the making of computer-generated spaceflight sequences for “Star Wars”. The visually crisp imagery moved right, but didn’t look right until Industrial Light & Magic realized that they needed to smear the spaceships a little (kind of like the blurry moving image artifact you get in a still frame). Only then did we humans accept that the image was real. It’s called motion blur.

Lets’s not overlook the positive aspects of human frailty.

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User Experience: It ain’t just for the InterWeb.

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