•• METRICS ...METRICS

WORKING PAPERS

Abstract: Cutting, DeLong and Nothelfer (2010) use statistical methods to investigate the evolution of shot-length patterns in popular film. They argue, using what they call a `modified autoregressive index' (mAR), that patterns are becoming increasingly clustered and also evolving towards 1/f structure, a pattern described in a later publication as 'like those that our minds may naturally generate'. This paper shows that the interpretation of the mAR index is wrong. It is also shown that that the results concerning 1/f patterns can be interpreted in an equally plausible and much less 'exciting' way. That is, although there are undoubtedly interesting temporal patterns in the shot-length structure, they can't be interpreted in terms of the `evolution of Hollywood film' in the sense intended in the original paper.

As of late 2013 a slightly revised version of this paper is available on the Cinemetrics website.

Abstract: In 1926 D.W. Griffith, in Pace in the Movies, issued what might be thought of as a 'prescription' for structuring melodramas of the kind for which he was famous. This can be interpreted in terms of the cutting-pattern to be expected. The paper develops a statistical method of investigating cutting-pattern. The 'prescription' would appear to have been applied to his major feature films between 1914 and 1921, but is much less evident in his feature films after this period, ofrin his earlier work, and shorter films, at Biograph between 1908--1913.

Abstract: The quantitative study of editing patterns in silent film, for the period 1908--1915, has often relied on the average shot length (ASL). It is, for example, clear that the rapidity of D.W Griffith's cutting increased over the period 1908 to 1913 as measured by the ASL. Griffith was a mentor of Mack Sennett whose early directorial work at Biograph emulated Griffith in terms of cutting-rates. When Sennett moved to Keystone there was a marked increase in the cutting-rates employed in the films he directed - this paper suggests that it is possible to trace evolution in his cutting-rates over the period 1912-1914. Sennett was, in turn, a mentor of Charlie Chaplin whose directorial efforts at Keystone have been argued to represent a reaction against the fast cutting expected by that studio. A comparison of the ASLs of the films of Sennett and Chaplin supports this argument, but in certain respects the ASL is a blunt tool for comparative purposes, and more nuanced quantitative analysis is possible. This paper examines some graphical approaches based on the use of cumulative frequency distributions of shot-lengths (SLs) that can be more informative than the use of the ASL alone. Among the graphical techniques illustraed are the averaging of cumulative SLs across bodies of films, using a logarithmic scale to highlight differences, and correspondence analysis of the cumulative SLs to investigatee patterns of difference between individual films. Apart from the suggestion of evolution in Sennett's cutting-rates from late-1912 to 1914 there is greater complexity in Chaplin's practices at Keystone than can be summarized using the ASL. His practice evolved away from the `style' employed by other Keystone directors, in the direction of making greater use of shots of longer duration. However -- and this cannot be inferred from the ASL -- he also made greater use of shots of short duration. That is, to say that he ended his career at Keystone cutting more slowly than Sennett -- based on analysis of ASLs -- oversimplifies things; he was cutting with greater variety as well.

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