In some previous posts, we’ve looked at how eyetracking technology tells us something about how people look at paintings. But what about movies? How does the element of motion influence the attention of the viewer?
Eye Movements during a segment on Chilli Plasters from TheDIEMProject on Vimeo.
(Feed readers may not get the video, so link to it here)
Scientists at the DIEM Project (Dynamic Images and Eye Movement) have shown snippets from films to viewers and tracked the movements of their eyes. In the case of this clip, 48 viewers participated, so the sampling size is quite large. In addition to little ovals showing where individuals glanced, the video is overlaid with a “heatmap” which compiles viewer data to show where the vast majority of viewers were looking at a given moment.
Here are some of my observations:
1. In scenes with an even overall visual texture (such as at 1 minute: 2 seconds), the center of gaze goes to a default position in the middle of the screen.
2. People seem to anchor their gaze on the nose of the face, perhaps “reading” the rest of the face in peripheral vision from that position.
3. Viewers tend to look at the person who is speaking (not surprisingly). Getting them to look at a listener in a dramatic film is a collaboration of acting, directing, and editing.
4. When one scene cuts to another, the eye hangs in its last focal point for a bit, so editors who place the focus for the next frame in the same location will do the viewers a favor.
5. Viewers are highly goal-driven in the way they look at movie scenes. They scan for meaning.
6. Anomalies attract attention, like the goop stuck on the side of the pot at 32 seconds.
7. In fast cutting, the eye reverts to the default center (1:14-1:18)...
8. ...Which suggests that most visual information in fast-cut action scenes in movies is processed from peripheral, not foveal information. So why bother with detailed VFX, other than to give eye-candy to DVD stop-frame hounds?
9. What the heck are chili plasters?
More at the DIEM project.
Related previous posts on GurneyJourney:
Eyetracking and Composition, part 1
Eyetracking and Composition, part 2
Eyetracking and Composition part 3
Introduction to eyetracking, link.
How perception of faces is coded differently, link.
Eyetracking analysis of a scene "There Will be Blood"
University of Edinburgh, Visual Cognition Lab, Copyright 2009