Motion Pictures, Research

Motion Pictures, Research


a type of scientific motion picture that includes various methods for the use of cinematic techniques in science, industry, and agriculture to produce documentaries and to conduct cinematic research.

The ultimate goal of scientific documentary filming (the filming of geographic and ethnographic expeditions, the behavior of experimental animals, surgical operations, and so on) is the reproduction on a screen of the objects, phenomena, and processes under study, exactly as they are perceived by a person observing them directly. The films are shot at a standard speed, equal to that of projection, using ordinary movie equipment and ordinary movie film. Special cameras and types of film and various technical equipment and methods that make possible the filming of objects, phenomena, and processes that are invisible to the human eye because of its limited sensitivity or because of obstacles or interference that hinder observation are used in research motion pictures, depending on the specific tasks. Objects invisible to the eye because of their small size (such as bacteria) are filmed by means of photomicrography, using an optical or electron microscope. The method of remote filming, which is based on the use of telephoto lenses, is used to study objects and phenomena located at great distances. A similar method is astronomical filming (filming of the moon, artificial earth satellites, planets, and the heavens), using astronomical observation devices. The motion-picture study of objects that are invisible because of low contrast or insufficient brightness is accomplished by using special optical and electron-optical methods that provide significant enhancement of contrast and increase the brightness of the image. In research on invisible rays of the spectrum (such as ultraviolet and infrared rays), the filming is done with special types of motion-picture film that are sensitive to the rays. Phenomena and processes that are invisible because of their extremely high or low speed (such as the flight of a bullet, rapid chemical reactions, and the growth of plants and crystals) are studied using methods of high-speed, slow-motion, and time-lapse photography. During projection of films taken by such methods, the progress of the phenomenon as seen on the screen is slowed down or accelerated, depending on the specific correlation between the standard projection speed and the increased or reduced filming rate. This creates conditions favorable to the study of the phenomenon.

Other methods and procedures of filming, such as X-ray, stereoscopic, intracavitary (including the gastric mucosa), and holographic methods, also are used in research motion pictures. Modern technical facilities and film materials (as of 1974) make possible the photography of objects that differ in brightness (from a night landscape to the blinding surface of the sun), on various scales and at various magnifications, in light of various spectral compositions (in both extremely narrow and extremely broad regions of the spectrum), under various conditions (underground, under water, and in outer space), in a broad range of ambient temperatures, and with various film speeds (ranging from one frame per day to 1 billion frames per second).

The results of documentary and research films are subjected to qualitative analysis (viewing of the films on a screen) and, when necessary, to analytical processing by measurement of the image of the object under study in successive frames of the film.

The rise of research motion pictures dates to the time of origin of the technical principles of cinematography. The first research films of the successive phases of the movements of animals and heavenly bodies were made in the early 1870’s. In 1899, during the period of development of the professional cinematographer, the Russian admiral S. O. Makarov used the motion picture for scientific purposes during testing of the icebreaker Ermak.

Research motion pictures are used by most research institutions and organizations, where special film laboratories have been set up. The materials of research motion pictures are frequently used to compile training and popular-science films.


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Kubeev, B. V. Kino ν nauchnom issledovanii. Moscow, 1963.
Vasil’kov, I. A. Ekran i nauka. Moscow, 1967.


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