Two Thumbs Up for the 1/f Structure of Motion Pictures

Article excerpt

ATTENTIONAL DYNAMICS Two Thumbs Up for the 1/f Structure of Motion Pictures Cutting et al. (2010). Attention and the evolution of Hollywood film. Psychol Sci, 21, 432.

What makes a good film? Cutting et al. show that answers to this question may be surprisingly relevant to attention researchers, by examining the temporal structure of Hollywood movie shot patterns as measured by the 1/f time-series statistic. Like a good movie, their study will appeal to a wide range of readers at a number of levels. Cutting et al. analyzed a representative sample of 150 movies, selected evenly from the past 70 years and from five distinct genres (action, adventure, animation, comedy, and drama). They broke each film down frame by frame (in an average of 165,000 frames per film), used a three-stage process to organize each film's frames into a smaller set of "shots" (which took 15-36 h per film!), and recorded the length of each shot. Note that using film shots as the unit of analysis is important because, according to the authors, these are the units (as opposed to more abstract units such as scenes, sequences, and acts) that control the eye fixations and attention of the viewer. Their main questions of interest concerned (1) the emergent structure of shot lengths within a film, (2) whether this structure would reflect 1/f, and (3) whether the nature of this structure might have changed across the 70-year period of this analysis. …


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