We live almost literally immersed in an artificial visual world, especially motion pictures. In this exploratory study, we asked whether the best speed for reproducing a video is its original, shooting speed. By using adjustment and double staircase methods, we examined speed biases in viewing real-life video clips in three experiments, and assessed their robustness by manipulating visual and auditory factors. With the tested stimuli (short clips of human motion, mixed human-physical motion, physical motion and ego-motion), speed underestimation was the rule rather than the exception, although it depended largely on clip content, ranging on average from 2% (ego-motion) to 32% (physical motion). Manipulating display size or adding arbitrary soundtracks did not modify these speed biases. Estimated speed was not correlated with estimated duration of these same video clips. These results indicate that the sense of speed for real-life video clips can be systematically biased, independently of the impression of elapsed time. Measuring subjective visual tempo may integrate traditional methods that assess time perception: speed biases may be exploited to develop a simple, objective test of reality flow, to be used for example in clinical and developmental contexts. From the perspective of video media, measuring speed biases may help to optimize video reproduction speed and validate "natural" video compression techniques based on sub-threshold temporal squeezing.
Keywords: intuitive physics; motion perception; reality monitoring; speed biases; video clips.