What You Lookin’ At?

In a previous post, I mentioned TJ Smith who has done some amazing research and detailed experiments on how we watch movies. He is one of the team members behind The DIEM Project (Dynamic Images and Eye Movements). Using elaborate eye-tracking technology they can monitor viewers’ pupils and register the movement of their eyes.

Eyelink 1000

The information is then collected and analysed by DIEM with a software called CARPE (Computational and Algorithmic Representation and Processing of Eye-movements). This tool outputs the data in a visual form that looks more like a heat map. At the end of a test they can tell where exactly on the screen a viewer was looking.

Here are 4 types of visualizations analysed with CARPE on a sample of viewers watching the same video. Each green circle represents a single viewer’s eyes movement patterns. The bottom right corner is a ‘peek through’ of the screen that uses the heat map to exclude all that isn’t seen.

The results are incredible! The tests show that viewers look more or less at same part of the screen. You can easily understand how a skilled filmmaker can direct the action in such a way so our eyes follow the same part of the screen. Have a look at this amazing test done on a scene from There Will Be Blood by PT Anderson.

David Bordwell did an in-depth analysis of this scene in his blog post from Observations On Film Art. Have a read to understand how intentional staging and actors’ movement on set direct our eyes to look at a very specific part of the screen.

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