Posted on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 by Peter Sciretta
Physorg has an interesting article about how Hollywood movies follow a mathematical formula that “lets them match the effects of their shots to the attention spans of their audiences.”
Here is an excerpt:
“Psychologist Professor James Cutting and his team from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, analyzed 150 high-grossing Hollywood films released from 1935 to 2005 and discovered the shot lengths in the more recent movies followed the same mathematical pattern that describes the human attention span.” … “Cutting made his discovery by measuring the length of every shot in 150 comedy, drama and action films, and then converted the measurements into waves for every movie. He found that the more recent the films were, the more likely they were to obey the 1/f fluctuation, and this did not just apply to fast action movies. Cutting said the significant thing is that shots of similar lengths recur in a regular pattern through the film.”
While the study shows that the films that came close to the 1/f pattern tend to be more successful at the box office than those that don’t, the pattern doesn’t correlate with the overall enjoyment of a film. For example, The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith both follow the 1/f pattern rigidly, but Empire tends to get rated much much higher by most audiences.
You can read the whole article on Physorg or read the original 9-page research paper in PDF here.