Hitchcock and shot scales

This week a look at shot scales and shot types in the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The pdf can be accessed here: Nick Redfern – Statistical analysis of shot types in the films of Alfred Hitchcock

Statistical analysis of shot types in the films of Alfred Hitchcock


This paper analyses the changing use of shot scales and shot types in the films of Alfred Hitchcock from The Pleasure Garden (1925) to The Birds (1963) in the context of the introduction of sound technology to British cinema in 1929 and the director’s move from Britain to Hollywood in 1939. A sample of 42 films was divided into 3 subgroups (British silent films [𝑛 = 9]; British sound films [𝑛 = 14]; and Hollywood films [𝑛 = 19]); and was analysed using linear regression of rank-frequency plots and nonparametric analysis of variance. The results show that all three groups of films are well-fitted by a linear regression model, with no one shot scale dominating these films. Analysis of the different shot scales revealed that there are no significant differences in the use of shot scales between the two groups of British films, but that significant differences did occur between the British and American films for close-ups and medium close-ups, which increase in frequency, and medium long shots and long shots, which became less frequent. The proportion of reverse-angle cuts in the Hollywood films is much greater than in the British films, and this may be due to the use of shot-reverse shot editing patterns in Hollywood cinema. There is no evidence that the number of point-of-view shots or inserts changed, and this may be attributed to the fact that these types of shots are used in specific circumstances as required by the demands of narrative. Overall the results indicate that the introduction of sound technology did not have an impact on Hitchcock’s film style, but that the move to Hollywood did result in specific changes in the style of Hitchcock’s films.

This paper expands and imporoves on the methodology of using rank-frequency plots and ranks to analyse shot scales that I’ve used elsewhere. It also clarifies and updates and earlier discussion of shot scales in Hitchcock’s films, as well as tentatively exploring the relationship between reverse-angle cuts and POV shots. There is, however, much work to be done in this area – especially on Hitchcock’s use of shot-reverse shot editing.

About Nick Redfern

I am an independent academic with over 15 years experience teaching film in higher education in the UK. I have taught film analysis, film industries, film theories, film history, science fiction at Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Central Lancashire, and Leeds Trinity University, where I was programme leader for film from 2016 to 2020. My research interests include computational film analysis, horror cinema, sound design, science fiction, film trailers, British cinema, and regional film cultures.

Posted on November 18, 2010, in Alfred Hitchcock, British Cinema, Cinemetrics, Film Analysis, Film History, Film Studies, Film Style, Hollywood and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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