This article investigates historical trends of mean shot durations in 9,400 English-language and 1,550 non-English-language movies released between 1912 and 2013. For the sound-era movies of both sets there is little evidence indicating anything other than a linear decline plotted on a logarithmic scale, with the English-language set providing stronger results. In a subsample of 24 English-language movies from 1940 to 2010 the decline in shot duration is uniform across 15 shot classes, a result that supports a broad “evolutionary” account of film change. The article also explores the proportions of these shot classes across years and genres, with the results showing that 25 percent of the decline in shot duration is due to a shift away from shot classes with longer-than-average shot durations towards those with shorter-than-average durations, and 8 percent of the decline is due to the increased use of shot scales in which characters appear larger.
James E. Cutting and Ayse Candan
James E. Cutting, Kaitlin L. Brunick and Jordan E. Delong
Cinematic tradition suggests that Hollywood films, like plays, are divided into acts. Thompson (1999) streamlined the conception of this largescale film structure by suggesting that most films are composed of four acts of generally equal length—the setup, the complicating action, the development, and the climax (often including an epilog). These acts are based on the structure of the narrative, and would not necessarily have a physical manifestation in shots and transitions. Nonetheless, exploring a sample of 150 Hollywood style films from 1935 to 2005, this article demonstrates that acts shape shot lengths and transitions. Dividing films into quarters, we found that shots are longer at quarter boundaries and generally shorter near the middle of each quarter. Moreover, aside from the beginnings and ends of films, the article shows that fades, dissolves, and other non-cut transitions are more common in the third and less common in the fourth quarters of films.
András Bálint Kovács
According to directors and directors of photography choosing the appropriate shot scale for a scene is primarily an issue of narrative function. However, especially in the practice of art cinema preference of specific shot scales may be an important indicator of a particular style. In some cases statistical analysis of overall shot scale distribution in films reveals consistent and recurrent patterns of shot scale distribution in an author's work. Such a consistency is surprising, because it cannot be the result of conscious decision. No filmmaker plans the proportion of each shot scale in a film. This article investigates a systematic variation of shot scale distribution (SSD) patterns disclosed in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni, and Ingmar Bergman, which raises a number of questions regarding the possible aesthetic and cognitive sources of such a regularity.
James E. Cutting, Kaitlin L. Brunick and Jordan DeLong
This is an amendment to the article "How Act Structure Sculpts Shot Lengths and Shot Transitions in Hollywood Film" by the same authors published in Projections 5(1), summer 2011.
James E. Cutting, Catalina Iricinschi and Kaitlin L. Brunick
This article presents a new method to create maps that chart changes across a cinematic narrative. These are unlike narrative spaces previously discussed in the literature—they are abstract, holistic, dynamic representations based on objective criteria. The analysis considers three films (All About Eve, Inception, and MASH) by counting the co-occurrences of main characters within scenes, and 12 Angry Men by counting their co-occurrences within shots. The technique used combines the statistical methods of correlation, multidimensional scaling, and Procrustes analysis. It then plots the trajectories of characters across these spaces in All About Eve and Inception, regions for characters in Inception and MASH, and compares the physical arrangement of jurors with their dramatic roles in 12 Angry Men. These maps depict the changing structures in the visual narrative. Finally, through consideration of statistical learning, the article explores the plausibility that these maps mimic relations in the minds of film viewers.
Frederick Luis Aldama
The study of emotional body language is beginning to show results that contribute to our understanding of the affective and aesthetic impact of films on their audiences. This article presents an analysis of Mira Nair’s film Salaam Bombay! by turning to neurobiological findings on the emotions.
Aki Kaurismäki's feature-length fictional films are often discussed as a stylistically homogenous group. Because critics have looked for similarities, they have neglected differences among the films. This article tests prevailing arguments about the cinematographic style of Kaurismäki's films in a quantitative analysis of shot lengths, camera movements, reverse angles, point of view shots, and shot scales. The analysis indicates significant similarities and changes among the films and differentiates between notable stylistic trends. The results of the study complicate existing claims about Kaurismäki's style. Mismatches between impression and fact are explained by analyzing the parts of Kaurismäki's style that “stand out” and the reasons why they do so.
Sermin Ildirar and Louise Ewing
Researchers have recently suggested that historically mixed findings in studies of the Kuleshov effect (a classic film editing–related phenomenon whereby meaning is extracted from the interaction of sequential camera shots) might reflect differences in the relative sophistication of early versus modern cinema audiences. Relative to experienced audiences, first-time film viewers might be less predisposed and/or able to forge the required conceptual and perceptual links between the edited shots in order to demonstrate the effect. This article recreates the conditions that traditionally elicit this effect (whereby a neutral face comes to be perceived as expressive after being juxtaposed with independent images: a bowl of soup, a gravestone, a child playing) to directly compare “continuity” perception in first-time and more experienced film viewers. Results confirm the presence of the Kuleshov effect for experienced viewers (explicitly only in the sadness condition) but not the first-time viewers, who failed to perceive continuity between the shots.
Tim J. Smith
The intention of most film editing is to create the impression of continuity by editing together discontinuous viewpoints. The continuity editing rules are well established yet there exists an incomplete understanding of their cognitive foundations. This article presents the Attentional Theory of Cinematic Continuity (AToCC), which identifies the critical role visual attention plays in the perception of continuity across cuts and demonstrates how perceptual expectations can be matched across cuts without the need for a coherent representation of the depicted space. The theory explains several key elements of the continuity editing style including match-action, matchedexit/entrances, shot/reverse-shot, the 180° rule, and point-of-view editing. AToCC formalizes insights about viewer cognition that have been latent in the filmmaking community for nearly a century and demonstrates how much vision science in general can learn from film.
My native country, the Netherlands, has just been sucked into its next cycle of popular culturalist violence. Last week (November 2, 2004) in Amsterdam, the filmmaker T. Van Gogh was shot from his bike, his throat slit, and stabbed through the heart by a 26-year-old Dutch Moroccan. Van Gogh had recently produced (with Hirsi Ali, see Focaal 42) an intentionally offensive and facile drama, Submission, broadcast on television, about perceived Islamic intrusions on the female body.