Masterclass: Visual Perception of film & new media

“Psychological aspects of perception and spectatorship in the context of new media”

Masterclass Short Film Festival Leuven | 3.12.2018 | 7:30pm | Labozaal STUK


Visual Perception of Film and Media

The perception of complex visual scenes in film and media depends on our
perceptual capacities and visual attention. Perception of the visual stimulation and
understanding the visual information plays an important role in our everyday
functioning. In consequence, our perceptual system determines also the reception of
art, especially the perception of film and media. In order to understand such perception a bit better, we will analyze the issues of attention and of the visual perception that enable spectators to engage in the visual media communication as well as the factors (e.g., color, luminance, edge orientations, shape and motion) having impact on the perception and visual attention distribution over the screen while watching a film or any other film material. Additionally, we will try to answer the question, how the visual attention distribution over the filmic image determines the understanding of the movie itself.

Specific objectives:
• Survey on psychological processes of the film perception.
• Investigation of factors determining the visual perception of the filmic and
media materials
• Analysing saliency of those factors and their impact on understanding film and


The context of new media

Audiovisual techniques, are constantly evolving. Together with the evolution of media form evolve the storytelling strategies and the film language being used by filmmakers.

Within the last decade we’ve witnessed the growth of immersive and interactive media. We have dealt with immersion since the first cinematic experiences, but how different is the immersive state while experiencing the classical film in 16:9 format from the experience of a spherical film? How such difference influences the relationship between the artist and the public? What impact does it have on the psychological aspects of spectatorship?

During the lecture and the presentation at the Short Film Festival Leuven Iwona Pom will talk on the new technique of the spherical film, its workflow as well as the presentation ways and distribution. We will put under the consideration the artistic means that are brought by this new storytelling platform as well the limitations that it imposes on the filmmaking art.

Psychological aspects of Virtual Reality

The psychological unknowns are prompting VR researchers to scrutinize the effects of exposure to virtual reality on our psychological states as well as on the ethical side of such practices. Current VR media makers declare “a responsibility…to create experiences that are immersive, fun, educational, and inspiring” (e.g., HTC vive). However, “just like any medium, [virtual reality] can have good effects and negative effects” (Richard Marks, Sony lead virtual-reality engineer). Mike Rothenberg, head of Rothenberg Ventures, confirms it by saying: “We do have to have ethics conversations,” but “the technology will be successful no matter what, (…) every technology has downsides; the only question is how do we handle it as a society.”

Virtual reality has enormous potential beyond entertainment. It can allow students to enhance their education, by for example visiting ancient places or by practicing surgeries; potential tenants can walk through apartments without booking there any visit; people can meet face-to-face in spite of long distance between them… Over the last decade, research on the advanced virtual reality therapy techniques has shown its positive effects for people with physical and psychological disabilities. Also people with phobia’s and posttraumatic syndromes are effectively helped while overcoming their fears and desensitizing negative emotions and associated physical reactions, says Audrey Hamilton, PhD in Media Psychology.

What about the crossroad of Virtual Reality, Psychology and Creativity? According to Jason Ganz, VR can unleash the greatest wave of creativity in Human History. As Jeremy Bailenson says: “Think about virtual reality like uranium. It can heat homes, and it can destroy nations.”. What are actually the psychological factors that determine the quality of virtual reality and the way it affects us? Which features of the virtual setup determine immersive experience of the participants? When does a “virtual” feel as “real”? How to facilitate entering the “state of flow”, thus “getting in the zone” by a viewer? How does it affect the “cinematic identification” phenomenon? What about ‘creating memories’, learning effects, visual attention, subliminal messages and fulfilling the emotional needs? This knowledge is relevant for all of us: VR media makers, educators, parents of “digital natives”, artists, doctors, engineers, as well as… for us as VR users.



Length: 1,5 hour


Iwona Pom – bio

Iwona Pom (PhD)  is an information and audiovisual designer, a lecturer at the Warsaw University (Psychology Department) and at The Schiller National Film School (Postproduction & New Media). As a member of the museum advisory committee (M Museum Leuven) she combines the domains of empirical psychology and media design by scrutinizing the issues of human cognition, visual perception (PhD, the School of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin) and the information design (LUCA School of Arts, Brussels).

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