2001: A Space Odyssey as an Animated Barcode

2so reslice

Here you see a “movie barcode” created from 600 186×84 thumbnails which represent the first frame of every shot in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I originally stumbled upon this monstrosity by randomly playing around with some of ImageJ’s built-in functions. This particular one is called “Reslice;” it transforms a stack of images into something like the above, with the option of exporting it as a single frame or an animated gif. At first, I was genuinely baffled by what I had created—now I think I can explain it as follows.

The gif is 600 pixels wide, so it seems like a reasonable assumption that each 1px column represents a frame from the original film. The gif’s height is 186px, which corresponds to the width of the original thumbnails. And finally, the animation has 84 frames, which corresponds to height of the original thumbnails.

So effectively what we’re seeing is a series of 1px-wide slices of the film arranged chronologically from left to right. Over time, we see 84 lengthwise slices of each frame, cutting (I think) from top to bottom. Think of it as a throbbing film-strip style montage. I think this is an interesting way of reducing frames to sheer color, almost as if I were making 84 different color palettes per frame and juxtaposing them in time. Not sure how useful this will be as an analytic tool, but you have to admit it’s damn mesmerizing!

Eyes Wide Shut Graph


This is my first attempt at mapping frames onto an x-y axis. In this case, the x axis is median hue while the y axis is median saturation; all values were determined by Software Studies’s ImagePlot macro for ImageJ. I think the main limitation of this method is the sheer quantity of images I’m graphing. As you can see from my earlier post, the vast majority of frames in Eyes Wide Shut seem to be composed of very warm yellow colors; in this visualization, such frames would appear on the far left of the graph. However, since ImageJ processes the images in numerical order, chronologically early frame are often covered over by later ones. If you look closely, for instance, you can see that every frame from the ballroom scene has been obscured by later scenes (mostly the prostitute scene and the bedroom argument). The solution is obviously fewer images, but I’m not sure if I should simply decimate them or try to pick out representation frames from each shot.

Aside from that, I feel like this initial result is really promising. The graph really lets you visualize the extreme distance between Bill’s domestic life and his nocturnal wanderings, epitomized by the orgy scene. You can actually see the progression starting at the warm yellows of incandescent light bulbs and soft Christmas lights which illuminate Bill’s apartment. Next, the deep blues which characterize the scenes which most unsettle Bill and drive him into the New York underworld: Nick Nightingale’s description of his next job, Alice’s description of her “nightmare,” and Bill’s fantasy of his wife with the naval officer. Almost all of the reds occur in the costume store (although oddly juxtaposed with the final scene at the toy store), which serve as the gateway to voluptuous pinks and violets. It’s interesting to note that, at the bottom of the saturation spectrum, Bill continues to go about his normal life—scenes from the office, from the hospital, walking home, etc.—completely oblivious of the turmoil above.

I’m excited to see how the rest of the visualizations come out. Obviously there is still tweaking to be done—I’m not sure what to make of the three or four vertical lines—and I’d like to be able to represent individual scenes in some way. Progress is slow, as each visualization takes close to an hour to complete. Nevertheless, we’ll soldier on; watch this space for further updates!