2 of 5 stars
What’s this?

This thesis project from designer and technologist Frederic Brodbeck “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.”


This is gorgeous work and much more thoughtful than most similar projects, too. But frankly I’m a little weary of infographics being applied to ‘unexpected’ subject matter. Yes, it’s visually amusing to see beautiful abstractions of the mundane, but not everything needs to be reductively interpreted into its most simplistically brainy-looking form. The world is not a dashboard nor does it really benefit from being portrayed as one; it’s more interesting than that.

See the whole project here.



  1. I feel that your criticism of this project undermines its larger meaning. This project does not output information that is useful in the sense that it can be used in a truly productive way to reach conclusions that have not already been arrived at. But I don’t think that it needs to. While you can say that this project is not useful (a conclusion that I cannot say is unreasonable), you will have a hard time denying its creativity. It’s a kind of unorthodox thinking that changes the way people look at things (or in this case, GIVES you a new way to look at films you may have already seen a dozen times or more). It is a project that facilitates further study on the part of the individual, which not a dishonorable thing. Furthermore, it displays great amount of creative potential that could play a part in significant future innovations, even if you do not believe that this is any kind of innovation itself.

    A lot of people resist doing things these days because they are unorthodox and do not yield straightforward, solid benefits. I for one am glad to see that this individual followed through on a complex project of this very nature. I find this computer-cruntched look at films, a visualization that we never could have had without computers, to be refreshing and thought-provoking.

  2. Greg: I didn’t try to deny its creativity. In fact, I wrote that “this is gorgeous work and much more thoughtful than most similar projects, too.”

    However I think your assertion that “a lot of people resist doing things these days because they are unorthodox and do not yield straightforward, solid benefits” is not quite accurate. I think the opposite is true; people are rushing to apply the reductive language of infographics to everything around them, often quite superficially.

  3. Tweetable Khoi: the intersection of data visualizations a la Edward Tufte and traditional graphic design should remain the empty set.

  4. Good point Khoi Vinh. Yes, the whole infographics thing isn’t doing it for me either. I love the aesthetic and the craft but the abstraction often isn’t necessary and it’s often a solution looking for a problem. . We just don’t have the time. What’s far more powerful just now is image + caption i.e. blogs like this one. An info graphic driven by live data is an idea which intrigues me but it will have to be very, very simple— and perhaps small as Facebook button. Perhaps effective infographics are going to have be ugly or intrusive, not seductive and pretty.

  5. Well I don’t know. It may not be as impractical as it seems… Like, Cops looking at hours and hours of CCTV tape might find it useful to ne able to see patterns and go right to parts of video that may have out-of-character changes. Likewise for wildlife filmmakers or perhaps even film editors themselves…

  6. Aditya: If this was a project about helping police process hours and hours of CCTV tape, then it would have actually been about helping police process hours and hours of CCTV tape. Instead it’s about creating a superficially intellectual abstraction of something that only mildly benefits from the interpretation. But that’s just my opinion.

  7. Khoi, It would certainly be less than beneficial if his experiment remained as such. Now, this is not in the same class as the Microwave oven or Super glue or Teflon or HTTP. All I want to point out is, tons of effort taken in one area can open up some other totally tangential possibility. In the spirit of the lines closing your blog post, the world is too nonlinear to be confined to rational thought and purposeful action alone.

  8. Aditya: I think that’s a fair and well-argued point. I’m not sure I agree with it, but I think it’s a valid counter-argument to what I’m saying.

  9. I also find most infographics overrated but in this case it’s some undergrad’s project. If I could have made something like this when I was an undergrad I would be amazed by myself.

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