Since the beginning of cinema, filmmakers have relied on cutting from one image to another in order to tell a visual story. The human brain naturally fills in the gaps between images, and the narrative proceeds smoothly despite the choppy visuals. Now one neuroscientist’s research may change all that. Sergei Gepshtein wants to eliminate the need for cuts—not with long-takes, but by using his research into human perception to create a brand new cinematic language.
If Gepshtein’s work sounds confusing, that’s because we don’t really have the vocabulary to discuss it yet. Jennifer Ouellette, however, has done her best to detail his complex ideas in articles for Scientific American and Pacific Standard. As she explains, the best point of comparison may be optical illusions that allow viewers to see an image in two different ways depending on where they put their focus. Gepshtein hopes to harness the brain’s natural tendency to organize visual information so that directors can seamlessly blend scenes together without the use of cuts. “In effect, one scene may emerge in the middle of the other without cuts, and without the artificial tools of image morphing or dissolves,” he says.
Essentially, Gepshtein is arguing that filmmakers have yet to unlock the potential of digital technology, because they are still using old-fashioned cinematic tools (like cuts). He argues that the quick-cutting style that is so popular with today’s blockbusters keeps the audience at a distance, rather than drawing them into the world of the film. He wants to take a ground-up approach and build a whole new cinematic method from “first principles,” not just evolve existing technology through trial and error.
That technology wouldn’t just be limited to film; it could be used in all sorts of practical ways. For instance, information boards at airports could be constructed to reveal urgent information to viewers standing far away and more detailed information to those up close.
Given that we at The A.V. Club are fans of weird technology, long-takes, and optical illusions, we’re excited to one day see Gepshtein’s work in a movie theater/airport near you.