Datasets and Colour Visualizations for ‘Data-driven Film History: a Demonstrator of EYE’s Jean Desmet Collection

 

  • Christian Gosvig Olesen, Project Manager, University of Amsterdam: c.g.olesen@uva.nl
  • Jasmijn van Gorp, Project Supervisor, Utrecht University: j.vangorp@uu.nl
  • Giovanna Fossati, Project Leader, EYE Filmmuseum & University of Amsterdam: giovannafossati@eyefilm.nl

The NWO KIEM project ‘Data-driven Film History: a Demonstrator of EYE’s Jean Desmet Collection’ made use of three separate datasets on EYE’s Jean Desmet Collection: Collection EYE (CE), the Rixt Jonkman database (RJ) and Cinema Context (CC). These datasets were linked to find matches between them to see what types of information – preservation (CE), distribution (RJ) and screening information (CC) – we have available on each title in the collection. Below is a brief description of each of the datasets as well as links for download or online access.

For an elaborate user manual, please consult the article published in: C.G. Olesen, E. Masson, J. van Gorp, G. Fossati & J. Noordegraaf, “Data-Driven Research for Film History: Exploring the Jean Desmet Collection”, The Moving Image, Vol. 16, No. 1 (2016).

Collection EYE

The first dataset we used is derived from Collection EYE, EYE’s institutional catalogue, and contains titles from Desmet’s catalogue that the institution holds material for (e.g. a film print, still, poster or advertisement). This is the most complete dataset with regard to the Desmet Collection, as it comprises around 1000 titles out of the 1500-2000 films Desmet acquired and distributed during his active years. Collection EYE contains limited information on the films’ distribution or screening, but provides an overview of which films from Desmet’s distribution catalogue have been preserved.

The dataset can be downloaded here.

The Rixt Jonkman database

The second dataset is one produced by film archivist at EYE Filmmuseum Rixt Jonkman, who made a detailed transcription of distribution and rental information from Desmet’s business archive. Jonkman manually entered data on the rental, exhibition and distribution of approximately 870 films mentioned in the account books that were purchased from two German distribution companies, Westdeutsche Film-Börse (WFB) and Deutsche Film Geselschaft (DFG), between 1910 and 1912. These films were typically shown in ‘programmes’, containing a number of short films followed by a longer film. While it is the most reliable source with regard to exhibition and distribution information, it only covers the period from 1910 to 1912, when Desmet bought his films primarily from Germany.

The dataset can be downloaded here.

Cinema Context

The third and last available dataset is derived from Cinema Context, an online database developed by Dutch film historian Karel Dibbets. It relies on newspaper clippings and reports from the Centrale Commissie voor de Filmkeuring (Central Commision for Movie Ratings, installed in 1928) to establish where and when films from the collection were screened in the period covered by the collection. Cinema Context however only includes information for one screening a week – typically the premiere screening – for each film title. It should be noted here that in 2004, data from the Jonkman database were also added to Cinema Context, but in the meantime, Cinema Context has also been updated, for example, unidentified film titles have been identified or Dutch distribution titles have been replaced by original titles.

It is possible to see which films from the Desmet’s catalogue have screening info in Cinema Context here.

Visualizing Colour Palettes in Films from the Jean Desmet Collection

In addition to developing a mapping tool from the three datasets we had at hand, we were prompted by the Desmet collection’s significance for film colour historiography to also experiment with tools for colour analysis. Using the different options of the open-source visual analytics software ImagePlot – developed by media theorist Lev Manovich as an extension of the medical imaging software ImageJ – we visualized a select number of films which had appeared in three different programs distributed by Jean Desmet, as well as the entire film programs themselves. The ultimate goal of this was to link our results to our demonstrator’s interface to stimulate ways of using mapping and film visualization in combination.

Using ImagePlot, each of the video files at our disposal was broken down into image sequences consisting of all the films’ frames, producing image sequences of 100.000+ images. From these sequences, we created different types of visualizations so as to find out which kinds of patterns each would reveal. Eventually, we hope, this may allow users to relate the macroscopic perspective of a map and its visualization of distribution networks to the microscopic colour features of a film or film programme, through one and the same interface.

Below is included an overview of the films we had at hand for our visualization work as well as a description of the different types of visualizations we used and examples of them. Characteristic of all the visualisation types which ImagePlot offers is that they process and include the information of entire image sets to create one representation. This means they do not produce traditional abstract diagrams, graphs or other forms of statistical forms of representation but instead rearrange or summarize all the image information in an image set to visualize patterns.

Programme number Programme 1 Programme 2 Programme 3
Venue and date De Gezelligheid, Goudseweg 124 Rotterdam Concordia Bioscope, Schiedamscheweg 19 Rotterdam Bellamy-Bioscoop, Bellamypark 18 Vlissingen
20-26 February 1914 25-31 december 1914 1-7 januari 1915
Films Main programme: Programme: Programme:
1. Amerikaansche vlootmanoeuvres (Target Practice of Atlantic Fleet US Navy, Edison Manufacturing Company, USA 1912) 1. Loetschberg (Le Chemin de fer du Loetschberg, Eclipse, France 1913) 1. Sous le ciel Basque (Onder de Baskische Hemel, Eclipse, France 1913)
2. Verbroken geluk (Gebrochene Schwingen, Adolf Gärtner, Messter, Germany 1913) 2. Geduld overwint alles (When Persistency and Obstinacy Meet, Vitagraph Company of America, USA 1912) 2. Het eerste duel van Willy (Il Primo duello di Polidor, Ferdinand Guillaume, Pasquali, Italy 1913)
3. Onwetend verloofd (Solitaires, Van Dyke Brooke, Vitagraph Company of America, USA 1913) 3. De avonturen van Fifi (Eclipse, France 1912) 3. Mijnheer Pijp champignon-kweeker (Mr. Pyp als Champignon-zuechter, Charles Decroix, Monopolfilm, Germany 1913)
4. Een autopech (Panne d’auto, Baldassarre Negroni, Celio Film, Italy 1912) 4. De slachtoffers van een woekeraard (Il focolare domestico, Nino Oxilia, Savoia Film, Italy 1914)
Extras: 5. Overwinnen of sterven (Vittoria o morte, Itala Film, Italy 1913) 5. André op de planken (Andy Goes on the Stage, Charles H. France, Edison Manufacturing Company, USA 1913)
4. Kwellende herinneringen aan het verleden (L’Obsession du souvenir, Gaumont, France 1913) 6. De buurvrouw van Contran (Gontran et la voisine inconnue, Eclair, France 1913) 6. De orgeldraaier (The Organ Grinder, Kalem, USA 1912)
5. Leon gaat naar buiten (Léonce à la campagne, Léonce Perret, Gaumont, France 1913) 7. Polycarpe is aan het schijfschieten (Polycarpe veut faire un carton, Ernest Servaes, Eclipse, France 1914)
6. De dochter van de Gouverneur (Guvernørens datter, August Blom, Nordisk Films Kompagni, Denmark 1912)
Duration of digitized programmes 01h51m37s 01h30m07s 01h46m28s
Number of frames in video sequence 167.440 135.182 159.705

The Montage Visualization

The Montage visualisation can be said to present the profile of a film structure. It visualizes an entire film by arranging each frame, or a selection of frames, in the order of their sequential appearance from left to right, from above to below. Using this visualization it is possible to discern changes in movement, image composition as well as the distribution of a film’s segments and too zoom in on them. We were intrigued by this format as we had seen the impressive results which had been achieved with it elsewhere. In particular within the project Digital Formalism, a collaboration between the Austrian Filmmuseum, the Vienna University’s Film and Theatre Studies department and the Technical University of Vienna, which embraced the use of ImagePlot to visualize patterns in the work of the Soviet avant-garde director Dziga Vertov.

The example below is a montage visualization of Programme 1 from the Desmet Collection. We found this visualization evocative in that it gives an at-a-glance impression of the colour composition of a programme, making it possible to see its shifting colour schemes. In many respects, however, the visualization felt counter-intuitive, for instance because it places different segments on top of each other, thus obscuring their sequential relations when zooming in on it.

Because of space restrictions the version included here is not the full image file which can be viewed and zoomed in any standard image viewer but a lower resolution version of it. To compensate for this we have included two details from the full visualization below it, in which the individual frames become increasingly visible.

Montage Visualization Desmet Programme 1, full but non-zoomable version

Montage Visualization Desmet Programme 1, full but non-zoomable version

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montage Visualization Desmet Programme 1, Detail 1

Montage Visualization Desmet Programme 1, Detail 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montage Visualization Desmet Programme 1, Detail 2

Montage Visualization Desmet Programme 1, Detail 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Summary Visualisation

The summary visualization format is more abstract than montage visualizations and without an indication of the frames’ sequential relation. Yet, to us, the format seemed more productive for discerning colour patterns in films from the Desmet Collection. In the summary visualizations, every image of a sequence is layered onto the next, thus creating a canvas of colours with different qualities throughout the image. The predominance of one (median) hue (value), (median) saturation (value) or (median) brightness (value) in one area of the frame reflects a persistent occurrence of that hue, saturation or brightness in that particular area of the frame throughout a programme. The image thus allows us to understand, at least to a certain degree, the frequency of chromatic events in the frame, along the entire length of a programme. In addition, comparison of film programmes is possible, either by eyeballing it or with the help of additional ImagePlot functionalities which enable to plot them onto an x- and y-axis using two different values.

Below we have included summary visualizations of Programme 1 from the Desmet Collection and each of the films in it, followed by the summary visualizations Programme 2 and 3.

Desmet Programme 1, summary visualization

Desmet Programme 1, summary visualization

Amerikaansche vlootmanoeuvres (Target Practice of Atlantic Fleet US Navy, Edison Manufacturing Company, USA 1912)

Amerikaansche vlootmanoeuvres (Target Practice of Atlantic Fleet US Navy, Edison Manufacturing Company, USA 1912)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Verbroken geluk (Gebrochene Schwingen, Adolf Gärtner, Messter, Germany 1913)

Verbroken geluk (Gebrochene Schwingen, Adolf Gärtner, Messter, Germany 1913)

Kwellende herinneringen aan het verleden (L’Obsession du souvenir, Gaumont, France 1913)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leon gaat naar buiten (Léonce à la campagne, Léonce Perret, Gaumont, France 1913)

Leon gaat naar buiten (Léonce à la campagne, Léonce Perret, Gaumont, France 1913)

Onwetend verloofd (Solitaires, Van Dyke Brooke, Vitagraph Company of America, USA 1913)

 

 

 

 

De dochter van de Gouverneur (Guvernørens datter, August Blom, Nordisk Films Kompagni, Denmark 1912)

De dochter van de Gouverneur (Guvernørens datter, August Blom, Nordisk Films Kompagni, Denmark 1912)

 

Desmet Programme 2, summary visualization

Desmet Programme 2, summary visualization

Desmet Programme 3, summary visualization