Visual Style in Two Network Era Sitcoms




This essay shows how face detection and recognition algorithms, applied to frames extracted from a corpus of moving images, can capture formal elements present in media beyond shot length and average color measurements. Locating and identifying faces makes it possible to algorithmically extract time-coded labels that directly correspond to concepts and taxonomies established within film theory. For example, knowing the size of detected faces provides a direct link to the concept of shot framing. The blocking of a scene can similarly be deduced by knowing the relative positions of identified characters within a specific cut. Once produced on a large scale, these extracted formal elements can be aggregated to explore visual style across a collection of materials. It is then possible to understand how visual style is used within the internal construction of narrative and as a way to engage broadly with external cultural forces. The method is an example of an approach to large scale image analysis that Arnold and Tilton have termed distant viewing.

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© 2019, McGill University. This article first appeared in Journal of Cultural Analytics 2019.

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Taylor, Arnold, Lauren Tilton, and Annie Berke, "Visual Style in Two Network Era Sitcoms," Journal of Cultural Analytics. July 19, 2019. doi:10.22148/16.043.