Why do car wheels look as if they are spinning backwards on film?

I’ve noticed this on many TV shows, films and adverts- it always looks as if the wheels are spinning backwards as the car drives forward at speed- why is this?

Hi there.
What you are seeing is a well known optical illusion that only occurs at certain speeds (in real life too, it is just easier to see on film – try it with a spinning top). As a wheel spins faster, it gets too fast for the eye to focus on – with persistence of vision (which is where the brain stores what it has already seen and builds on top of that base image) any spot on the wheel will appear first to stop still and then with an increase of speed will appear to go backwards.

Simply put, the spot on the wheel you are attempting to focus on will not quite reach the same position in the time it takes your eye to notice it has moved – so it appears to go backwards.
Cheers, Steve.

As everybody has said it’s the stroboscopic effect
If you look at some of the old record turn-tables (Garrard 401), you will see 3 lines of dots round the rim, and also a liitle strobe light.
When the top line looks stationary then the turntable is doing 33.3 revs per minute.
when the second line looks stationary the 45 revs. and so on to 78rpm

Well, there are a few reasons for this:
First, some cameras have mirror based lens and when they film some motions look different.
Secondly, the speed of the digital camera can also have an effect.

I hope I helped!

because the film speed travels faster than the wheel speed, or vice versa!!!!111111111

It’s not just in film and television.lol.

When you are out driving LOOK.

They all do that, but I have no idea why…

Good question.

Check out pimp my ride sometime. You can get trims/alloys that actually have a separate/top part that spins separately from the wheel direction. I believe they are actually called ‘spinners’. Try Halfords or someplace. As for what they do on film these days – you really can’t believe much of what you see as most movies include loads of CGI. Its all make believe.

I noticed the same thing. I asked my friends the same thing…they never noticed it….honestly……they thought I had gone cross eyed or something…

well its like copter blades…
they spin one way but it looks as it changes as it speeds up…

because the camer which is filming it is opposite to the spinning wheel of course!

It is the strobe effect of the film – !

good question!

wild guess it that it has something to so with the still frames and the sequence they were put together in

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