optical illusions in film

The Eyeline Match: An Exploration (Proposal)


Nearly every film makes use of the continuity editing technique called the eyeline match (EM). And it is a technique that has been in use since the early days of movies, at least as far back as 1920. And yet, it remains unclear why the eyeline match works. My proposal is to first establish a pattern of data that shows us where EM works and where it doesn't. This is useful because once we know "where" it works, we can work to find "why" EM works because a hypothesis can then be tested against the observed pattern of data.


1) Establish where EM works and where it doesn't. 2) using this, come up with viable hypotheses as to why EM works


The applicability of the eyeline match will be determined by investigating the effects of manipulating the various variables/factors on the illus ion. The variables will be manipulated through:
  1. Splicing existing film footage
  2. Filming new footage
Variables Affecting EM (*details below):
  1. Onscreen versus offscreen-gaze.
  2. Number of people gazing.
  3. Similarity of Environment.
  4. Similarity of Camera Movement.
  5. Plausible Gaze-Direction.
  6. Order of Shots.
  7. Sound.
Variables (Details):

1) OnScreen versus offscreen:
Does the person's gaze have to be off-screen, for EM to work?

2) Number of people:
If more than one person onscreen are looking in different offscreen directions, whose gaze do we associate with the EM (if any)?

3) Environment:
How does the similarity/difference of the two environments on either side of the cut affect the EM? For example: differences in lighting, colours, scenery.

4) Camera Movement:
If the camera movement (pan, tilt, dolly, track) varies across the cut, does the illusion weaken or break?

5) Gaze Direction:
Is the direction of the person's gaze consistent with where the object is? What happens if it isn't?

6) Order of Shots:
Target-Cut-Person versus Person-Cut-Target (and what happens in PersonA-Cut-PersonB)

7) Sound:
Does Sound affect the illusion? (changes in rhythm, changes in sync, variations in simultaneous/non-simultaneous sound, faithfulness of sound to its perceived source)