24 ____ per second: for Jim Emerson
Movies play at 24 frames per second. To say that they do anything else 24 times a second is fallacious, as it is based only on the technical specifications and ignores the way the contents actually work. Film rarely shows 24 different pictures in a second (some flash montages of single frames occasionally appear.) Even Brakhage, who made films for his unnaturally fast eyes, and whose films therefore are incomprehensible to most human eyes, did not show 24 different images in a second. The truth is that movies usually show 24 different variations on the same image in a second. Tracking shots and other shots that include large changes may be seen as continuously evolving images or as a succession of several images, but even then, to break them down into individual frames and to endow each frame with the same importance, so that no frame may be excluded in discussion or understanding, is absurd. The unit on which we should base our thought model is more the shot, or segment of a shot, than the individual frame. It is the moving image, rather than several still images in a row. And as you know, when Roger Ebert and a class go through films frame by frame, they do not stop at every single frame to notice how unique it is, because frames frequently do not differ much from one another and the sum total can often be represented, in still form, by one frame or a small group of frames.
My point is that when people talk about film lying, revealing, or doing anything else 24 times a second, all they’re doing is exclaiming, “Look at me! I know what speed film plays!” 24 frames per second is just a simple fact, and rarely is it a significant one. It’s a technical specification, only very rarely a component of the film contents. Basically, it’s not important, and it’s not the point.