Frederic Brodbeck has created a fascinating project which measures data to reveal the visual characteristics of certain movies.
As part of his bachelor graduation project at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague, he used software to break down the characteristics of particular films (e.g. editing, colour, speech, motion) and then turned this information into a moving graphic.
…cinemetrics is about measuring and visualizing movie data, in order to reveal the characteristics of films and to create a visual “fingerprint” for them. Information such as the editing structure, color, speech or motion are extracted, analyzed and transformed into graphic representations so that movies can be seen as a whole and easily interpreted or compared side by side. Being someone who really enjoys movies and cinema, I always notice little things about the style of a movie, so film and its characteristics were an interesting starting point for this project.
Furthermore my thesis is about generative / computational design and what role writing code plays regarding new approaches in (graphic) design. It was clear that for my graduation project I would use the methods I described in the thesis and that it would involve a certain amount of programming in order to visualize data. However, today there are already a lot of information graphics using meta-data related to film and cinema (budget, box office data, awards won, relationship between characters etc.). That’s why I wanted to use the movie itself as a source of data, to see what sort of information can be extracted from it, to find ways of visualizing it and to create the necessary tools to do this.
This video is a neat introduction to the project:
The films used in the above video are:
- Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)
- Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and James Cameron’s Aliens (1986)
- Andrei Tarkovsy’s Solaris (1972) and the 2002 remake by Steven Soderbergh
- All the films of Wes Anderson: Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
This is all possible because digital formats allow us to extract and process the data that makes up a single movie, but what’s impressive here is the tools Brodbeck has used and the presentation of what he has found.
Extracting, processing and visualizing movie data is something you cannot do manually, that’s why custom software tools were written for pretty much every step of the process. Tools for disassembling video files into their components (video, audio, subtitles, etc.) and processing them (shot detection, average shot length, motion measuring, color palettes), as well as an interactive application to generate and compare different movie fingerprints. Most of the code is available here.
He has also written up his findings as a book:
Although film is sometimes an elusive medium to pin down with raw data, this is an impressive attampt to do just that.