This week we will be focusing on cinematic images and the way digital media allows us to both manipulate them and analyze them more than ever before. With DVD players, screengrabbing and screenshooting software, looking and examining a single frame of a film is now possible (you realize how recent this notion is if you remember what it looked like when you paused a VHS!). There are plenty of people in the web fascinated by and inspired by screenshots. If you’ve perused Tumblr recently (or, at all), you’ll realize that screencaps (and gifs) are everywhere these days. I’ve curated a couple of examples of people who go beyond merely grabbing images from films and who are doing creative and critical work around them. Here are a few examples:
Movie Barcodes: This anonymous artist takes every frame from a movie, skews it to be only a pixel wide and lines them up in a row, creating a barcode-like image of the entire film.
Cinemetrics: “cinemetrics is about measuring and visualizing movie data, in order to reveal the characteristics of films and to create a visual “fingerprint” for them. Information such as the editing structure, color, speech or motion are extracted, analyzed and transformed into graphic representations so that movies can be seen as a whole and easily interpreted or compared side by side.” Here’s an extended view of what it can do (http://vimeo.com/26584083)
“One movie – four frames. That’s it.”
It’s a simple conceit that pulls focus from the way the choice of frames is heavily curated. Note the examples pictured here: Mathilda (Natalie Portman) alone in the middle of a seemingly unwelcome environment in 1994’s Léon, The Professional, and the slow appearance of color in the fantasy film Pleasantville (1998).
Then there are three sites (that I’m aware of) that focus on titles and opening credit sequences:
Intertitles, merely offers the title image:
Movie Title Stills Collection offers more information (at times giving you the full opening credit sequence in screen-grabs)
& Art of the Title is probably the more robust of the three, actually giving some analysis and interviews of some iconic and recent title sequences. Watch, for example, their video “David Fincher: A Film Title Retrospective” (http://vimeo.com/44890024):
An example of a frame-by-frame analysis (in slide-show form) of Christopher Nolan’s Memento (2000):
Kris Tapley over at In Contention (@ HitFix.com) always does a run-down of his Top 10 favorite shots of the year. He usually analyzes the shot and gets an interview with the cinematographer to find out more about said frame. Here is one of from his 2012 list:
Over at The Film Experience, Nathaniel Rogers often hosts a “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series wherein he asks contributors to choose just one shot for whichever movie is being discussed. It’s an interesting activity that often yields a lot of different points of view about a film. I recommend browsing a couple of the titles (especially of films you’re familiar with).
We will be doing a “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series ourselves with a short film this week, so ahead of it, I you to ask yourself the following: what shots stick in your mind from your favorite films? Why? Are they usually crucial to the story or do they tend to be just pretty pictures? Does it depend from film to film? Are there films you remember more for how they look than others?