Thursday, February 24, 2011

DIEM and thanks for all the hits

My guest post on David Bordwell's blog last week was a roaring success. I could never have imagined that it would capture the interest of so many people across so many disciplines. You can get a sense of the interest by looking at the comments and statistics for the main eye movement video. In the week the post has been up it has been viewed 145,000 times and pages embedding the video have been read 728,000 times! The video cropped up on twitter (thanks Roger Ebert and others), facebook, numerous blogs, websites and newspapers. I am incredibly happy that my research reached out to film makers, theorists, and eager consumers to inform their appreciation of film. Hopefully, you can all now get a sense of how miraculous and complex our perception of film is and how we can inform our understanding by applying methods from empirical psychology.

I plan to build on the momentum created by the blog post by posting similar cognitive readings of films here on my own blog. In the meantime, I can point you to my existing publications on the topic:

For information on the Dynamic Images and Eye Movement project (DIEM) and its analysis of the influence of visual and cinematic features on how we watch movies as presented in my analysis of There Will Be Blood, check out:
Mital, P.K., Smith, T. J., Hill, R. and Henderson, J. M. (in press) Clustering of gaze during dynamic scene viewing is predicted by motion. Cognitive Computation

On how we perceive film and the issues related to continuity, read: Smith, T.J. (2010) Film (Cinema) Perception. In E.B. Goldstein (ed.)The Sage Encyclopedia of Perception.

On the illusion of the "invisible edit" and how it relates to natural attentional shifts when watching film, see: Smith, T.J. and Henderson, J.M. (2008). Edit Blindness: The relationship between attention and global change blindness in dynamic scenes. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 2(2):6, 1-17.

Finally, if you want to see more of the DIEM eye movement videos, new videos as they are created and download the analysis software (i.e. CARPE) go to the DIEM project page and subscribe to our Vimeo channel. As a taster, here is a showreel from the DIEM videos. Enjoy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Guest blog on

As mentioned in my last post, David Bordwell asked me to write a guest post on his much read blog. Skip over to to see my overview of how recording eye movements during film viewing can inform our understanding of how we watch and make sense of films. As an example I analysed a sequence from PT Anderson's There Will Be Blood and visualised the gaze data using tools created as part of the Dynamic Images and Eye Movements (DIEM) project. To give you a sneak preview, here is a "peekthrough heatmap" made from the gaze data of 11 viewers.

Details about how this was created and what it tells us can be found on the blog post.

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

Monday, February 07, 2011

Bordwell on Eyes

Cognitive Film Theorist extraordinaire, David Bordwell has recently posted two wonderful blog posts about the power of eyes in film. His first post on emotional communication and acting in Fincher's The Social Network is a brilliant introduction to the psychology of facial expressions and its subtle mastery by the actors. A very fun and clever exercise in how we can use cognitive psychology to inform our understanding and analysis of film.

In David's second post he extends the discussion to a topic very dear to my heart: the eye movements of film viewers.

By providing an introduction to eye movements and summarising Yarbus' work on the influence of task on eye movements during picture viewing he provides the foundations from which we can start hypothesising about the relationship between film form and viewer attention. In next week's post, David has given me the honour of building on this foundation by explaining first-hand some of my empirical research into film viewing utilising my eyetracking methods. Watch this space to find out more!