(Please note: the names and locations of all parties have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the participants in this brain injury/car accident case and its proceedings.)
A camera is not the same as the human eye, and film is not the same as the retina of the eye. The limitations of the camera-film system as a simulator of human vision are particularly acute under low luminance conditions. William Hyzer has written extensively on this subject. Hyzer’s criticisms have been relied upon by plaintiffs accident reconstructionist Miles Apuni in this case. As Hyzer notes, a principal difficulty is the limited dynamic luminance range of photography as compared with that of the eye.
Perceptual-cognitive issues also are often misleading with nighttime photographs. The normal field of view for humans is close to 180 degrees in all directions, but a camera only captures a small portion of the visual field, much less than the person who actually sees things the picture or video is trying to replicate. Thus, such photographs artificially concentrate the viewer into the restricted field and artificially enhance the visibility of the key object or condition being depicted.
A photograph is a static representation of a slice of time, whereas the accident sequence itself is very dynamic. The human eye is designed to optimally perform at high levels of illumination. Therefore, cameras and videos tend to make things brighter to allow people to see the target of the illustration. Also, in an auto accident, the driver does not expect the hazard to appear, but observers of a video which tries to replicate the accident know the hazard is coming and the animation or video artificially changes the viewer’s perceptions in a way far different from what actually occurred in the field.
A photograph might be offered to show 200 feet from the intersection and so the person looking at it knows what to look for and scrutinizes what can or cannot be seen, but this is not at all what happens in reality. The driver never knows the hazard is coming, can see a much wider field, and is moving at the time. These problems, along with the camera’s inability to replicate the human eye, all make the demonstration unrealistic and highly prejudicial.
The eye is not a camera, and the camera is not an eye. Humans see selectively and the camera sees indiscriminately. People don’t see clearly hardly anything outside the immediate visual focus. A batter focuses on the ball spinning at him but the pitcher, the fielders, the entire scene aside from that focus is blurry. We’ve all had the experience of looking at a photograph and seeing something in it we never saw when taking the picture.
It needs to be emphasized what the differences are between the image seen by the human eye and the one seen by a camera. The photographic image, for example, is flat and two-dimensional. It has borders which define what is included and what is not; its focus, content, and point of view are fixed at the moment of exposure. These characteristics are very different from what we take for granted and are accustomed to in our visual contact with the world. A driver, for example, though having a wide panoramic view, only focuses on a certain area within the visual field, but a picture from a camera provides a clear crisp two-dimensional image of the limited field it captures, not replicating the brightness at all.
Whether we realize it or not, we observe the world from many points of view, not just one, by means of our binocular vision (using our two eyes), and through continuous movements of the eyes, head and body. The brain synthesizes this continuous exploration into a unified experience. The visual process is very active and creative, not a passive recordation like a camera creates. We focus in and out, scan from side to side.
The eye is normally an accurate and sensitive receiver, but it can be tricked, deceived, and objects can be camouflaged with an illusion. Psychologists, military tacticians, scientists and opthalmologists all agree that certain factors, six actually, give us accurate perception of what we think we see, and if any of these are missing, an illusion may result: (1) color; (2) shape; (3) texture; (4) movement; (5) position; (6) shadow. At nighttime, it is harder to perceive these things and easier for them to be distorted, intentionally or unintentionally.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.