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Virtual Dictionary

Temporal Aliasing

Temporal aliasing, also known as the stroboscopic effect, is a major issue with motion and animation in both interactive and passive virtual environments. It is also seen in meatspace, but only at much higher speeds, albeit for the same reason.

It is a kind of aliasing that occurs when what should be a continuous motion such as a wheel spinning, is instead divided into a series of frames per second, which are then sent to the eye. If the movement speed of the wheel is accidentally synced to the update frequency of the frames, then it appears to not be moving, even as the vehicle drives forwards, resulting in an extremely immersion breaking effect.

As an example, a carriage wheel is turning at 30 revolutions per second, and happens to be being displayed on a monitor that is updating at 30 fps. Every time the monitor updates the view, the wheel has performed one revolution, and is back in exactly the same place it was before. Hence, it appears to be perfectly still, whilst the cart is dragged along the ground.

A slightly worse variant occurs when the wheel is rotating at say, 29 revolutions per second, and the display frame rate is still 30 frames per second. In this instance, the wheel does not manage to complete a full revolution each frame, and actually appears to be moving in reverse.

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Related Dictionary Entries for Temporal Aliasing:

Temporal Aliasing

The Stroboscopic Effect


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