The Troxler Effect

Audio/visual recording


Sparkes, Daryl. 2023. The Troxler Effect. Australia.
Title of Work

The Troxler Effect

Type of WorkAudio/visual recording
Creator/ContributorSparkes, Daryl
Year2023
Place of PublicationAustralia
Web Address (URL)https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xgdvJLhpH3qd5mBmQwC4zlJecc_9eCEW/view?usp=share_link
Description of Work

"The Troxler Effect' is a 10 minute experimental film. This film was created in 2023 on the first ever 16mm film camera - the hand-cranked 1923 Cine-Kodak Model A - as an experiment using the techniques of filmmaking from exactly 100 years ago, to celebrate the centenary of 16mm film. It reproduces the 1923 cinema-going experience including the soundtrack performed on a 1920s cinema organ and hand drawn title cards.
The film concerns a woman who is haunted by images of doppelgängers prompted by a mysterious mirrored cube, the film's thesis becomes that Artificial Intelligence is the 21st century's version of the Troxler Effect.
The Troxler Effect is an optical illusion affecting visual perception. The film uses this cerebra theory to examine ideas of reflection, psychology, and AI, and the link between our minds and images. It also looks at the leap between technologies over 100 years, how film aesthetics have evolved over this time and questions where we are destined to be heading over the next 100.

Originating in the early 19th century, around the same time as the invention of the computer, the "Troxler Effect" argued that distortions in light and focus affected the brain’s visual cortex which could lead to horrific or mutated images appearing when a person looked at their own image under certain conditions. Applying this theory to the practice of filmmaking I have created an experimental drama which argues that Artificial Intelligence is creating The Troxler Effect in the 21st century. As Artificial Intelligence becomes more ubiquitous in filmmaking processes, especially in the creation or manipulation of human characters and their faces, I wanted to illustrate that filmmaking technology originated with actual people as actors but has evolved over the past hundred years into digitised binary code that computers can distort and rearrange.

Computers are not sentient beings. They cannot conceive of nor understand what an actual human face looks like. They are only programmed to distribute pixels across a screen in a certain way. Machine learning algorithms can be trained to recognize and classify different objects in a scene. By using mathematical algorithms they analyse data for correlations and patterns, and use these patterns to make predictions about future state, such as in a moving image. This is exactly the method that the brain uses during the Troxler Effect, trying to constitute a human face based on patterns and correlations, albeit biologically instead of mathematically. But the outcome is the same.

Charles Babbage created the first computer in 1823. 16mm film was invented in 1923, 100 years later. Merging the two technologies of computers and film together has given us AI in 2023. As it is the centenary of the invention and release of 16mm film this year, I wanted to replicate the production of a 16mm short film under the same conditions as the those pioneers 100 years ago. Having sourced one of the first ever 16mm cameras, the Cine-Kodak Model A 16mm hand cranked camera, I made the film with tungsten lights, hand drawn credits and titles cards, and a soundtrack from a 1920s cinema organ. From this I wanted to recognise the leap of technologies from 1923 to 2023.

The story of the film is a woman is haunted by a series of doppelgangers after a mysterious mirrored box appears and disappears. The box represents the Troxler Effect. Although the main female character’s shots have not been altered or tampered with, each other woman doppelganger that appears has had their shots altered through an AI generator. This has distorted their original faces, creating the Troxler Effect for our lead character. The end scene is filmed using a 2023 iPhone 14 which becomes the next 100 year leap (1823 – 1923 – 2023) and where we are in technological evolution today. This is signified when the lead character places the mirror box on her head and she moves into the technological realm of Troxler – the inverse of the original universe. This is highlighted by her clothing moving from white to black, such as the other women are wearing, and her hair moving from black to blonde. It is a realm where the doppelgangers exist.

At the end the film becomes a statement on both the advances and limits to technology as more and more we merge computer code with image reproduction. It heralds the next hundred years in filmmaking craft and technology and asks how much does our humanity change, the reflections of ourselves on film distorted and manipulated, often seamlessly so that the audience does not notice, or is just resigned to accept it. Through this process we create our own version of the Troxler Effect in films.

KeywordsTroxler Effect Cine-Kodak 16mm
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020360505. Screen media
430306. Digital history
470102. Communication technology and digital media studies
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.

Byline AffiliationsSchool of Creative Arts
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https://research.usq.edu.au/item/z327v/the-troxler-effect

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