Cinematic Visualizations

This is an evolving set of visualization work related to moving images, whether film, television, or other video. The scope is intentionally loose and inclusive, with examples of story flows, ways to see time, insights into the business and art sides of movies and TV, popular actors, editing metrics, and more. As well, the images range from hand drawn sketches to polished graphics. I find these samples intriguing, both collectively and each in their own way. It is striking how the moving image inspires people to study and visualize it on so many levels like this.

The texts and images presented here are compiled from the pages of their authors, and copyrights for these elements reside with them.

Please contact me if you have something to suggest adding.

In no particular order (yet), please enjoy...

Persol Magnificent Obsessions: 30 Stories of Craftsmanship in Film (2012)

airplane scene, with Hitchcock's diagram This blog entry touts an exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image, and dishes up this image, "A scene from North by Northwest juxtaposed with Alfred Hitchcock's illuminated camera diagram."

Movie Narrative Charts

flowing hand drawn outlines of movie narratives Randall Munroe's Movie Narrative Charts are beautiful hand-drawn movie timelines.

Also check out Vadim Ogievetsky's PlotWeaver, which attempts to automate the generation of visualizations like xkcd's.

JT Fridsma
The Fellowship (2011)

rendering of Middle Earth, surrounded by character progressoins Middle Earth is, indeed, central.

Eddie Elliott
Video Streamer (1992)

block of video Video Streamer shows the flow of time by stacking frame upon frame on a T-axis, forming a volume of video.

Slit-scan effects emerge on the side, revealing temporal details, like camera zooms and cuts in editing. The edge of a view can be quite revealing.

My master's thesis, which spawned the streamer.

Frederic Brodbeck
movie core (2010)

cylindrical slitscan core of a slice of video time Moviecore takes a cylindrical sample of movie time.

Golan Levin
An Informal Catalogue of Slit-Scan Video Artworks and Research (since 2005)

slit scan Golan Levin offers a compendium of slit scan creations, often swirling views of time.

Greg Ercolano
2001 A Space Odyssey: Unwrapping the Slit Scan sequences

slit scan sequence unwrapped back to original art Ercolano maps the trippy slit scan sequences near the tail of 2001 A Space Odyssey back to the original artwork.

Now I am curious what a video streamer view of 2001 would look like.

Dorothy Gambrell

streamgraph of movie genre popularity from 1926 to 2010 Dorothy Gambrell charts minimum, median, and maximum movie lengths over time for Academy Award best picture nominees and for top ten highest grossing films in the US.

_Christopher Lloyd: Disheveled Hair vs. Awesomeness

ramp up from shaved and kinda shitty up to disheveled and awesome role This plot of images on the kinda shitty to awesome role and shaved to disheveled scales plots a Christopher Lloyd curve...

from Uncle Fester (shaved and shitty)

to Dr. Emmett Brown (disheveled and awesome).

Erik Boertjes
Fluid Guide (2012)

a carpet controlled EPG A carpet controlled electronic program guide (EPG).

Also see Movies & Magnets, by Boertjes.

Pulp Fiction chronological sequence

interweaving characters in Pulp Fiction Dehahs says he was inspired by xkcd's movie narrative charts.

Noah Smith
Pulp Fiction in Chronological Order

graphical timeline of Pulp Fiction Another crafty Pulp Fiction timeline.

Eddie Elliott
Movie Tagger Alpha (2010)

multiple graphics of metadata for West Side Story What can happen when movies and TV shows are tagged, down to the second, both objectively and subjectively? RCDb and USC's School of Cinematic Arts combined efforts to begin to sort that out.

Deb Roy
Bluefin Labs (2011)

viewing crowd visualization Bluefin Labs uses social TV analytics to gain insight into viewer thinking. They mine Twitter and others to learn viewer reactions.

Check out Bluefin's visualizations of moving image metadata and Deb Roy's TED talk: The birth of a word.

Nathan Yau
Famous Movie Quotes (2010)

diagrams of famous movie quotes Nathan's words: "Here's looking at you, data point."

Famous Movie Quotes, part 2

The Top 50 Highest Grossing Movies: Famous Quotes

a splash of movie quotes, in speech bubbles A splash of movie quotes, in speech bubbles.

Purportedly, quotes from "the top 50 highest grossing films of all time".

Frederic Brodbeck
Cinemetrics (2011)

pulsating circular timeline See Frederic Brodbeck's project for a pulsating view of cinematic pacing and color schemes.

An earlier project named Cinemetrics.

Vijay Pandurangan
Colours in Movie Posters Since 1914 (2012)

movie poster colors over time The evolution of colors used in movie posters. Also see Lesley Yarbrough's color-passioned comments on Pandurangan's work.

Erik Davis
Which of These 13 Most Popular Movie Poster Trends is Your Favorite and Least Favorite? (2011)

comparing movie posters Ever walk away from a movie feeling like it was pretty predictable? Are movie posters often just as formulaic?

More cliches, and more.

Also see Trajan is the Movie Font.

Peter Sciretta
Orange/Blue Contrast in Movie Posters (2009)

lots of posters with orange/blue color schemes Is there an excessive use of orange/blue contrast in movie posters? Now, will you see it always?

Just for kicks, Google up movie poster to see what compositions and color schemes in one ad hoc view of poster trends.

Sergey Surganov
The 14 movies by the Coen brothers (2010)

budgets and box, plus tomatoes for 14 Coen brothers movies McDormand, Goodman, and Buscemi perform a lot for the Coens.

Their tomatoes are consistently high, well, except for Hudsucker Proxy and Ladykillers. C'mon people, it's for kids.

I wish my brother and I could merit one 23rd as many oscars.

Tom Muller
The Coenfographic (2011)

Coen filmography, charting appearances of top actors "Charts the films of the Coen Brothers from Blood Simple to True Grit and maps out the most prevailing actors throughout the years by film"
6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon Tech Edition

close links to Kevin Bacon A short list of Kevin Bacon links. Check with the Oracle of Bacon, and People with Bacon Numbers.

I once stood in line behind Kevin Bacon at a rental car counter. How does that affect my Bacon Number?

??? (2011)

graph of links to Kevin Bacon A Kevin Bacon social graph.

Why the red and blue boxes and arrows?

Eddie Elliott
Time Data (2011)

co-occurance graph for Minority Report RCDb (now Watchwith) is collecting very detailed metadata for thousands of movies and TV shows, timed to the second. I had the pleasure of producing images ranging from sub-second, to whole film, to thousands of films, ranging from static to animated to interactive. Such fun!

Jermain Kaminski and Michael Schober
Moviegalaxies (2012)

movie galaxy for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope Social network diagrams of movies, based on relationships sussed from movie scripts.

Erik Boertjes
Movies & Magnets (2012)

force directed layout of movie posters This movie data explorer uses the metaphor of draggable and tweakable data-magnets to control a force-directed layout of movie posters and their associated information.

Also see Fluid Guide, by Boertjes.

Frederic Vavrille
Liveplasma (2004)

network of related movies Liveplasma is a graphical interface for discovering music, movies, and books related to a title of interest. For City of God, Amores Perros makes sense, but Conan the Barbarian?

Jason Salavon
The Top Grossing Film of All Time, 1 x 1 (2000)

The Top Grossing Film of All Time, 1 x 1 Jason Salavon visualizes Titanic by boiling the color of each frame of the film down to a single pixel.

MovieBarcode (2011)

moviebarcode for Dune It is not clear what technique was used for MovieBarcodes, but the results look similar to Jason Salavon's, just rotated 90 degrees.

Francois Vautier
BLADE RUNNER revisited >3.6 gigapixels (2010)

3.6 gigapixel wall of frames from Blade Runner Blade Runner, big, very big.

Brendan Dawes

film frames at one second intervals Film frames, at one second intervals.

Reminiscent of similar work at the MIT Media Lab's Visual Language Workshop in the early 90s.

Zach Beane
Movie Charts

box office flow Zach Beane's MovieCharts render movie gross information from Box Office Mojo in a flowing fashion.

Mathew Bloch, Lee Byron, Shan Carter and Amanda Cox
The Ebb and Flow of Movies: Box Office Receipts 1986 - 2008 (2008)

box office flow The New York Times team employed a streamgraph view to show box office performance over time.

Szucs Kristztina
Spotlight on movie profitability (2012)

spotlight effect when comparing budget and worldwide gross Compares budget and worldwide gross for movies in various genres from 2007 to 2011.

James Fisher
Hollywood Data Exploreer (2012)

interactive scatter plot of budgets, profits, and ratings Which movie had a greater return on investment, Avatar or Juno?

This delightfully tweakable scatterplot of movie data from 2007 to 2011 makes it easy to compare numerous attributes across hundreds of movies.

Edward Segel
Rating Profitability Over Time (2011?)

compares G, PG, PG-13, and R profits from 1990 to 2010 What tends to be more profitable, a PG-13 rating, or R?

What do producers prefer?

The Biggest Summer Blockbusters of All Time (2010)

biggest summer blockbutsters since Jaws It's not clear what the data sources are, but this infographic compares budget, gross, and adjusted gross (presumably for inflation) for 35 summer blockbusters, from Jaws in 1975 to Spider-Man 3 in 2007.

Any trends? Maybe that budgets are swiftly growing in recent (should have been adjusted too), and that margins are shrinking?

What does that mean?
Increasing action and polish make for less profit?
Adventure productions are increasingly less adventurous?

Focus on purple to green ratios here for hints at production costs versus popularity.

Gordon Chan
Hollywood Budgets

bubble scatter plot of profitability (%) over Rotten Tomatoes Score (%) 2007 to 2011

Compares profit with Rotten Tomatoes score and critics score for hundreds of films, categorized by 22 story types.

Jerome Cukier and Jen Lowe
Shooting Stars! (2012)

scatterplot of profitability against Rotten Tomatoes score "Turns out that the most frequently used story types are far from being the most profitable!"

Niege Borges
Dancing Plague of 1518 (2012)

clip of the Singin' in the Rain poster Let's do the Time Warp Dance,
or let's vote for Pedro,
or let's just sing in the rain.

Shahed Syed
Batman Physics (2012)

equations and illustration for freefall Illustrated equations of free fall.

Also see Murderous Physics.

Michel Gagne
Taste Visualization for Pixar's Ratatouille (2007)

image visualizing Remy smelling cheese This one is quite interesting. Michel Gagne was asked to sketch visuals to represent the sensations of taste and smell. Those were then used to inspire the musical score. Finally, all were combined in the film.

David McCandless
Movie Monster Infographic

monsters, graphed by size What's bigger than Godzilla?

Juan Pablo Bravo
100 Pixar Characters Size Comparison (2010)

Pixar characters over time, comparing sizes Heights of Pixar characters, from Wally B to Twitch.

Sebastian Jaramillo
Kinetic Typography: Fight Club on the scene "Chemical Burn" (2010)

frame from animated type The script of Fight Club's "chemical burn" scene in animated type.

Aimee Rosner
Fight Club

timeline graph of event intensities Timeline graph of event intensities. Also charts product placement.

How Star Wars Changed the World (2011)

the talent explosion from Star Wars This talent explosion chart plots key people who contributed to the saga, and other films they worked on.

Wayne Dorrington
Star Wars: Episode IV retold in iconoscope

Star Wars episodes, told by icons Princess Leia has a message, gives it to a droid, which joins another and goes to a planet with two suns, then...

Star Wars Facts

star wars plot overview Five infographics in one, including a plot overview, a budget and revenue timeline, a chart of total ticket sales across days of release, a graph of character appearances across all six episodes, and other numeric trivia.

Star Wars Infographic of Revenue Throughout the Galaxy (2012)

pie-like chart of Star Wars revenue The "bar chart" is bogus, but the Millennium Falcon pie-like chart might be fairly accurate.

Judge for yourself.

Dorothy Gambrell

trajectories of film careers of Friends actors Some had film careers before Friends, and most do after. Then, there is Joey.

Dorothy Gambrell

Tomatometer scores for high grossing films from 1950 to 2010 Dorothy Gambrell charts Tomatometer ratings from Rotten Tomatoes for six decades of top grossing films.

Jeremy Butler
Shot Logger

Shot Logger logo Jeremy Butler's Shot Logger contains a database of shot lengths for over 600 films and TV episodes.
A Shot Logger tidbit: average length of all shots = 6.33 seconds.

Yuri Tsivian

Cinemetrics UI Yuri Tsivian also looks at shot lengths and offers a database of shot timing in his Cinemetrics project.

Lev Manovich and Jeremy Douglass
Visualizing Temporal Patterns in Visual Media

average shot lengths, feature films, 1900-2008 Lev Manovich and Jeremy Douglass discuss visualizing time in a variety of visual media. Regarding film in particular, they note how shot lengths have generally trended lower over the past century.

Lev Manovich
Software Studies Initiative

Eleven_shots_Xkurtosis_Yshapes Lev Manovich directs the Software Studies Initiative at UCSD, exploring the field of digital humanities, including analysis of video.

Lev Manvich
Cultural_Analytics (2012)

shot frames Cultural Analytics, coined by Lev Manvich poses the question:
How and why study big cultural data?.

Nathan Yau
Is Jeff Bridges most likely to win best actor? (2010)

best actor winners compared with their nomination counts 10 of 29 best actor winners had more nominations than others in their category for the Oscars. Do nomination counts count?

Eliot Glazer
The Definitive Meryl Streep Matrix (2012)

Meryl Streep charted on frivolous to serious and cold to warm axes Eliot Glazer plots Meryl Streep's roles on two axes: cold - warm, and frivolous - serious. It might be interesting to see a graphical indication of release year on this Streep-head scatterplot to see if there is any pattern to the types of characters she plays over the progression of her career.

DVD Rental Revenue 2001-2008 (2010)

spiral visualization of DVD rentals from 2001 to 2008 DVD rentals from 2001 through 2008 charted on a spiral.

Thomas Baekdal
Where is Everyone? (2009)

graph of swelling and receding media types over time In understandably broad strokes, Where is Everyone? paints a picture of the progression of media types, suggesting each grows, flourishes, then yields to others. However, the absence of movies stands out. Maybe they are more constant than other media?

Dan Meth
U.S.A. Sitcom Map (2009)

sitcom titles placed where they were set Offhand, it looks like the greatest concentration of settings of popular sitcoms is in Los Angeles. Many were, perhaps, conveniently shot near there?

Dan Meth's NYC Sitcom Map.

Film Map (2012)

a map made up entirely from film titles A map made up entirely from film titles.

US Movie Map (2012)

states formed by representative movie titles There it is, SLC Punk makes Utah.

Compare with this.

Kim Rees
Rambo Kills (2012)

number of bad guys killed by Rambo The number of bad guys killed by Rambo in parts I, II, III, and IV.

Greg Burney
The "Memento" Timeline, Visualized

flash-back and flash-forward on the Memento timeline Now + flash back + flash forward, a time machine.

Balazs Krich
What movie should we watch tonight?

bubble scatter of theaters and ratings Counts of opening theaters versus ratings (data sources?)

As course as it is, any insightful patterns to discover with the side controls?

The Christopher Nolan Flowchart: What movie are you watching? (2010)

flowchart of Christopher Nolan's work - which movie are you watching? How many films has Christopher Nolan directed? Which were they?

Have you watched one recently?

Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan's Inception Flowchart (2010)

Christopher Nolan's Inception flowchart How Christopher Nolan, himself, charted Inception in a sketch.

coming up.., several variations

read on, dear reader

I'm getting sleepy

very sleepy


Matt Dempsey
Inception Explained

scrolling Inception storyline Scrollable storyline of Inception.

Sean Mort
Inception Poster/Infographic (2010)

Inception dream chart Reality, dreams, Limbo.

Jason Fonceca

cloudy dream diagram Cloudy dream diagram.

Daniel Wang
Inception Infographic (2010)

dream stair steps Indicates how perception of time slows down with dream depths.

Adam Martin
I am the architect (2010)

head in heads in heads Heads in heads, in heads...

Inception Timeline Visualisation (2010)

gray stick figure graph Seven stick figures hop on a plane, some snooze, four reach Limbo.

Matt Sinopoli and Josh Tyler
An Illustrated Guide To The 5 Levels Of Inception (2010)

levels, who dreamed, who goes, and why, plus the kick Levels, who dreamed, who goes, and why, plus the kick back up, all in colors, faces, and text.

Inception Infographic (2010)

Inception infographic Dreams, with kicks.

Inception infographic (2010)

levels and kicks Injury and death charted across dream levels.

Rick Slusher
Inception infographic (2010)

descent and ascent between reality, dreams, and limbo Rick Slusher graphs descent and ascent between reality, dreams, and Limbo, like many others (yes, including kicks), but also conveys how actual time compares to perceived time.

Napkin sketches leading to the design.

Jonah Ray
Inception explained for Mac users (2010)

Inception depicted in nested Mac file system folders Nested dreams tucked in nested folders.

Inception Infographic (2010)

onion rings infographic Charts the paths of characters through the onion rings of dreams.

Inception: Perception of Time (2010)

dreams as nested cylinders The Inception dream states as nested cylinders about a big Limbo core.

My Portuguese is weak, but here is a bit of a translation to English.
Pickup on a truck on a truck on a truck (2012)

truck, on a truck, on a truck, on a truck Now, to close off this riff of Inception graphics...

How do The Simpsons relate to Inception?

These reddit comments label this photo of nested trucks Truckception and refer to the truck-truck-truck in a Simpsons episode.

Jordan DeLong, Kaitlin Brunick, and James Cutting
Film Patterns and Limits (2012)

films watched per capita, over time The authors studied the evolution of structure in films, looking at changes in shot length characteristics and visual activity over much of the 20th century. From research on film structure, it appears that Hollywood is becoming an increasingly better modulator of attention. The research is also giving new insight into the human visual system.

James Cutting, Jordan DeLong, and Kaitlin Brunick
Visual Activity in Hollywood Film: 1935 to 2005 and Beyond (2011)

graph of visual activity in films from 1930 to 2010 This study measured visual activity in 150 films from 1935 to 2005 and found that there has been a linear increase in this metric across many genres, but especially in action and adventure films.

Sean Mort
Back to the Future trilogy timelines (2010)

Back to the Future timeline Sean Mort's Back to the Future chart correlates the trilogy of films, using eight timelines spanning 1850 to 2015.

Visual Evidence that Movies are Getting Worse (2012)

graph 20 most popular moves over the past 20 years A quote: "Opinions on sequels are almost always more divergent than the originals."

Dorothy Gambrell

increasingly higher budgets for top films Compares minimum, median, and maximum budgets since 1931 for top ten highest grossing films in the US and Academy Award best picture nominees.

I'm not sure if this is adjusted for inflation, but it costs so much to make a movie, especially since the late 80s! Are movies over-polished?

Jason Dietz
Pixar vs. DreamWorks Animation: Comparing the CGI Giants (2010)

compares "metascores" to inflation adjusted US box office for Pixar and DreamWorks I don't know what a metascore is, but this article poses the question: "Is Pixar really the best computer animation studio?", and follows with discussion and graphs.

Bottom line, so far, looks like DreamWorks has grossed more (as of 2010), but Pixar has more good films.

Bottom bottom line, what is good or great for kid's eyes?

Mike Figgis
Timecode (2000)

Mike Figgis's outline for Timecode, much like a musical score Timecode presented four cameras continuously following the interweaving of characters over the course of the film. There were no edits, just long simultaneous takes, kind of like recording a play on four side-by-side stages. Mike Figgis's background as a musician shows in "score" of the quad-split.

The full interview with Mike Figgis.

Dan Meth
The Trilogy Meter (2009)

Dan Meth's ratings of films in trlogies Dan Meth graphed his own ratings of several trilogy films.

Nathan Yau
Do Movie Sequels Live Up to Their Originals? (2010)

fresh/rotten graphs of trilogies Nathan Yau looks at how sequels perform, based on Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

Mike Haeg
Bullitt - Car Chase Map (2007)

map of 9 unconnected locations in San Francisco appearing in the Bullitt car chase The car chase in Bullitt (1968) was shot in 9 different locations in San Francisco, some miles apart. Looks like Warner Bros. took down the chase video on Mike's page, but you can find it by searching "Bullitt car chase" at YouTube. Then see his nicely annotated Google map of the locations.

Movies with multiple Harry Potter wizards (2011)

social graph of Harry Potter wizards and movies the actors who played them also appeared in A social graph of movies with multiple actors who have played Harry Potter wizards, and the names of the wizards.

The 2011 Guide to Making People Feel Old - Using Movie Release Dates (2011)

what to say to make people feel old Did you realize that Home Alone came out more than twenty years ago?

Daniel Shiffman
Alien vs. Predator (2006)

comparison of Netflix user ratings of Alien and Predator Visually compares ~50,000 Netflix customer ratings of Alien and Predator.

Matthew Bloch, Amanda Cox, Jo Craven McGinty, and Kevin Quealy
A Peek Into Netflix Queues (2010)

Netflix performance in NY The New York Times team maps Netflix rental patterns for a dozen cities. You can also roll over each zip code to see its most rented movies.

Nathan Yau
Why I want to quit cable (2012)

graph of cumulative costs of Comcast vs. Hulu Plus and Netflix Nathan Yau debates his viewing habits and compares his cable costs with streaming alternatives.

Movies & Shakers (2009)

graph of user transactions over time for various services What does a movie cost these days? Which services are consumers using more frequently? Which companies are the most prevalent?

Head To Head: Netflix vs. Redbox (2010)

various stats comparing Netflix with Redbox Presents pros and cons of Netflix and Redbox, and compares their success.

Nathan Yau
Where are the biggest box office movies (not) streaming? (2012)

graph of Nathan Yau graphs Tristan Louis's list of Where the hits are streaming in 2011.

William M. Briggs
Oscar Statistics: Money, Men, and Maturity; Plus Our Predictions (2011)

ratio of best picture to most popular, graphed from 1940 to 2010 William Briggs asks: Which is the better movie, the one awarded an Oscar for Best Picture or the Most Popular, defined as the one with that year's highest box office gross?

Dorothy Gambrell
Overlap between Academy Award Nominees, Best Picture, and the Top Ten Highest Grossing Films per year, 1928-2010 (2011)

charts highest grossing films, best picture nominees, and their overlap How do Best Picture awards compare with box office popularity? Seems they used to have regular overlap, until the 1980s, and it has been sparse or non-existent since.

Nathan Yau
25 Highest Grossing Films of All Time (2008)

titles of 25 highest grossing films, text sized by gross Quick, adjusted for inflation, which made more, Titanic or The Sound of Music? The Return of the Jedi, or The Empire Strikes Back? The Graduate, or The Godfather?

And... What is the most common genre among the 25 highest grossing, comedy, or animation? Action/adventure, or Drama?

Dorothy Gambrell

graph of genres expanding and contracting over time In terms of gross revenue, kid movies and fantasy are crowding out comedy and horror. Romance has been receding since the 40s. There was a surge of crime in the early 70s, and of horror in the late 70s. But, wow, drama ruled in early cinema, and barely exists now. Can that be right?

Christopher Beam and Jeremy Singer-Vine
Slate's Hollywood Career-O-Matic (2011)

career trajectories, according to Rotten Tomatoes "What Rotten Tomatoes data tell us about the best, worst, and most bizarre Hollywood trajectories."

Tom Evans
FilmStrips (2012)

gross over budget, across time? Seems to be gross over budget, across time, colored by genre.

Rolling your mouse over it yields info about genre, budget, gross, profit, and rating, for many recent films.

Among other things, it is interesting to sort by worldwide gross - gross above and budget below, then to plug in rating below.

I tried to track down the original author and source for each piece above. Please pardon, if I didn't dig far enough.