This article provides evidence for the existence of a robust “brainprint” of cinematic shot-scales that generalizes across movies, genres, and viewers. We applied a machine-learning method on a dataset of 234 fMRI scans taken during the viewing of a movie excerpt. Based on a manual annotation of shot-scales in five movies, we generated a computational model that predicts time series of this feature. The model was then applied on fMRI data obtained from new participants who either watched excerpts from the movies or clips from new movies. The predicted shot-scale time series that were based on our model significantly correlated with the original annotation in all nine cases. The spatial structure of the model indicates that the empirical experience of cinematic close-ups correlates with the activation of the ventral visual stream, the centromedial amygdala, and components of the mentalization network, while the experience of long shots correlates with the activation of the dorsal visual pathway and the parahippocampus. The shot-scale brainprint is also in line with the notion that this feature is informed among other factors by perceived apparent distance. Based on related theoretical and empirical findings we suggest that the empirical experience of close and far shots implicates different mental models: concrete and contextualized perception dominated by recognition and visual and semantic memory on the one hand, and action-related processing supporting orientation and movement monitoring on the other.
Gal Raz, Giancarlo Valente, Michele Svanera, Sergio Benini and András Bálint Kovács
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.
This article examines the stylistic mechanics behind the notion of gradation of emphasis in the CinemaScope westerns directed by Anthony Mann. It confronts the general assumptions with regard to CinemaScope with fresh empirical data. Building on Barry Salt’s quantitative methods, it studies the cutting rates and shot scale in Mann’s 1950s films and situates these within the broader context of film style in CinemaScope. This article furthermore analyzes the particular stylistic strategies Mann employed in order to create gradation of emphasis in his westerns, examining if the CinemaScope frame was particularly suitable for them, while also exploring the general relevance of the notion.
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.
Visual Narrative in 1895
The Lumière brothers' L'Arroseur arrosé ['The Sprinkler Sprinkled'] of 1895 was probably the first staged fiction film to be shown in public, but also the first cinematic adaptation of a comic strip, previous treatments of the subject including an Imagerie Quantin broadsheet by Hermann Vogel, a cartoon by Christophe in Le Petit Français Illustré and an illustrated sequence by Uzès in Le Chat Noir. What emerges from direct comparison is an appreciation of the sophisticated narrative devices that French comic illustrators employed by the 1880s, namely a dynamic combination of shot scales, angles and heights that still conforms to the diegetic demands of consistent spatial continuity. In short, these were the techniques that, perversely, would come to be known as 'cinematic'.
James E. Cutting and Ayse Candan
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.
This issue of Projections features an impressive diversity of research questions and research methods. In our first article, Timothy Justus investigates the question of how film music represents meaning from three distinct methodological perspectives—music theory, cognitive psychology, and cognitive neuroscience. Following a model of naturalized aesthetics proposed by Murray Smith in Film, Art, and the Third Culture (see the book symposium in Projections 12.2), Justus argues for the importance of “triangulating” the methods and approaches of each field—more generally, of the humanities, the behavioral sciences, and the natural sciences. Our second article, by Gal Raz, Giancarlo Valente, Michele Svanera, Sergio Benini, and András Bálint Kovács, also explores the effects fostered by a specific formal device of cinema—in this case, shot-scale. And again, distinct research methods are put to complementary use. Raz and colleagues’ starting point is a desire to empirically test a hypothesis advanced by art historians Alois Riegl and Heinrich Wölfflin. To do this, they apply a machine-learning model to neurological data supplied by a set of fMRI scans. Methodology is the explicit topic of our third article, by Jose Cañas-Bajo, Teresa Cañas-Bajo, Juri-Petri Valtanen, and Pertti Saariluoma, who outline a new mixed (qualitative and quantitative) method approach to the study of how feature films elicit viewer interest.