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Open Access The Framing of Characters in Popular Movies

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The Framing of Characters in Popular Movies

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I investigated the number and locations of characters as they appear on the screen in 48 popular movies released from 1935 to 2010. Sampling an average of one of every 500 frames (∼20 s of film) I amassed data from almost 14 000 movie images. The number and placement of the characters in each image were digitally recorded and compared across years and across aspect ratios (the ratio of the width to the height of the image). Results show a roughly linear decrease in the number of characters on the screen across years. Moreover, the number of characters influences shot scale, shot duration, and mediates their direct effect on one another. The location of characters on the screen was measured by the bridge of the nose between the eyes. By this measure I found that framing varies widely across aspect ratios, but when each image is conformed to the same shape, the overlap of the locations of characters is remarkably constant across years and aspect ratios for images with one, two, and three characters. Together, these results exemplify both constancy and change in the evolution of popular movies.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, Uris Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-7601, USA

10.1163/22134913-00002031
/content/journals/10.1163/22134913-00002031
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I investigated the number and locations of characters as they appear on the screen in 48 popular movies released from 1935 to 2010. Sampling an average of one of every 500 frames (∼20 s of film) I amassed data from almost 14 000 movie images. The number and placement of the characters in each image were digitally recorded and compared across years and across aspect ratios (the ratio of the width to the height of the image). Results show a roughly linear decrease in the number of characters on the screen across years. Moreover, the number of characters influences shot scale, shot duration, and mediates their direct effect on one another. The location of characters on the screen was measured by the bridge of the nose between the eyes. By this measure I found that framing varies widely across aspect ratios, but when each image is conformed to the same shape, the overlap of the locations of characters is remarkably constant across years and aspect ratios for images with one, two, and three characters. Together, these results exemplify both constancy and change in the evolution of popular movies.

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2015-03-03
2018-06-21

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