Inquiry-based learning: Time

Time and the moving image

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Did you know that film and animation emerged from optical illusion toys like flipbooks?

This is because they all work in a similar way. Just like flipbooks, films, animation and games are not actually moving images. In fact, they are made up of a series of images shown very quickly. In most films, we see about 24 images per second, and in really high definition films (like The Hobbit), our eyes are seeing 48 images every second! This is what is known as the frame rate, and we refer to it as 24 frames per second or 24 fps.

Timing is very important for all of these technologies to work properly.

For example, if you have ever made a flipbook, you might already know that if you flip the pages too slowly, you won’t get the illusion of movement, and if you flip it too quickly, your eye won’t even be able to see what’s happening.

This module will explore the importance of timing in making any type of moving image.


Use this interactive activity to experiment with frame rates and motion blur.

What happens when you increase and decrease the frame rate?

What happens when you increase and decrease the motion blur?

Why do you think Peter Jackson is excited about moving to higher frame rates?

If you liked this activity, check out this article from Gizmodo ‘Why Frame Rate Matters’.

Make an optical illusion toy!

Create your own optical illusion toy and experiment with timing.

Try making one (or all) of these!

Bird in a cage

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Benham's disk

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Animation and motion

For an animation to work, we need lots of images. If you saw a walk-cycle of a cartoon character that was made up say eight illustrations, you would need to see them in quick succession for it to look as though that character was moving. If you saw one image for a half a second each, you wouldn't get that motion, or the illusion of movement.

We refer to all the images that make up a moving-image as 'frames', and you may have heard something called 'frame rate' or fps which means, frames per second. The frame-rate is how many images you see for each second of a moving-image.

Have a discussion, and make a prediction about how many frames you would need to see per second of a film or animation for the motion to look smooth, or real. 1-7 frames? 8-14 frames? 15-21 frames? 22-24 frames? Where did you land with your prediction?

Now watch the Ted Ed video essay below to get a visual sense for frame rates and motion. It's all about optical illusion and movement

Before you watch, discuss what you think an 'optical illusion' is. 

Make a 60 second film!

Discover how Media teacher Brett Lamb uses different camera techniques to represent his day in 60 seconds.

Filmmakers, animators and game makers use a variety of narrative and visual techniques to represent or create the sensation, perception or transition of time.

Now it's your turn!

Create your own film to represent part of your life in a minute.


In your journal, answer the following questions:

Why is frame rate important?

What is the difference between film time and real life time (or as we call it in the business, reel time and real time)?

Consider: was there anything in this module that inspired you? Try to come up with three ideas you could use in your own film, animation or video game.


You have completed this module. The next module is all about time zones...

Time zones

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