Amazing Videos: The Science of How We Watch Movies

Monday, 14 February 2011 15:57 Written by  Jordan DeSaulnier
Rate this item
(3 votes)
Amazing Videos: The Science of How We Watch Movies

Over on David Bordwell's blog, British lecturer and psychological researcher Tim Smith has posted a fascinating essay about how visually participate in and cognitively process the act of watching a movie.  It's a really good read, and I highly recommend it, but I know that you're not inclined to take my word for it, so I'm providing incentive via two videos included in the essay.  Using a scene from Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, Smith demonstrates how we actually watch a scene by recording the eye movements of eleven viewers, then imposing each a visual representation of each gaze onto the scene itself.  Take a look.

Plotting the Gaze

There Will Be Blood with gaze locations of 11 viewers from TheDIEMProject on Vimeo.

Here's the same scene, using a "peekthrough heatmap" to differently illustrate how our attention is subtly moved and focused throughout a scene.

There Will Be Blood + eye movement peekthrough from TheDIEMProject on Vimeo.

These two videos should really be all the proof you need to read the whole essay here.  I can't say enough good things about it.  Check out Smith's blog, Continuity Boy, as well.  We tend to think of watching a film as a passive experience, but if that were true, it wouldn't be possible to get so emotionally wrapped up in the experience.  Bordwell and Smith's scientific, empirical examination is a trip, one that can actually enhance the way you watch and think about movies.

You'll be thinking about this the next time you watch a film, won't you?

Sources: Observations on Film Art, Continuity Boy

More in this category

Follow ROGUE

Latest Trailers

view more »