Category Archives: charlie chaplin

Shot length distributions in the early films of Charles Chaplin

Towards the end of 2008 I wrote this short piece comparing the shot lengths of four films directed by Charles Chaplin, and submitted it to In Short, an online journal at the University of Miami, where it was accepted for publication. Like many online journals, In Short appears to have contributed more to the CVs of those on its editorial board than it has to scholarship and its website has now disappeared without any communication as to when (or if) anything will published or any response to my queries as to what has happened. So to put this piece out into the public domain I included it here, and as usual you can download the pdf file while the abstract is below: Nick Redfern – Shot length distributions in the early films of Charles Chaplin

Abstract

The distribution of shot lengths in a motion picture is an indicator of film style, and is typically positively skewed with a number of outlying data points. Consequently, assumptions about the distribution of data for parametric statistics cannot be met and nonparametric tests are preferred for analysing quantifiable aspects of film style. This study uses nonparametric statistics as a method of comparing the distribution of shot lengths in motion pictures. Four films directed by Charles Chaplin from 1914 and 1915 were analysed to determine if the distribution of shot lengths was consistent in the works of a single director over time. Two sample Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests failed to identify a significant difference in films directed by Chaplin in the same year, but did identify significant differences in films directed by Chaplin in different years. These results may be accounted for by Chaplin’s move from the Keystone Film Company to the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company, suggesting that studio is a determining factor in film style at this stage of Chaplin’s career.

I came across a useful paper on interpreting graphs such as the one I use in the above paper, and this is worth reading: Herman Callaert, Nonparametric hypotheses for the two-sample location problem, Journal of Statistics Education 7 (2) 1999: http://www.amstat.org/publications/jse/secure/v7n2/callaert.cfm.

I’ve also just noted that there is a paper on the use of non-parametric tests in latest issue of the same journal: dwayne R Derryberry, Sue B Schou, and WJ Connover, Examples:  Teaching rank-based tests by emphasizing structural similarities to corresponding parametric tests,  Journal of Statistics Education 18 (1) 2010: www.amstat.org/publications/jse/v18n1/derryberry.pdf.

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Shot Length Distributions in the Chaplin Keystones

This week I have another draft of a Cinemetrics paper, this time looking at shot length distributions in Keystone films starring Charles Chaplin and directed by Chaplin, Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, George Nichols, and Henry Lehrman. You can download the pdf here: Nick Redfern – Shot Length Distributions in the Chaplin Keystones, and the abstract is given below.

Cinemetrics provides an objective method by which the stylistic characteristics of a filmmaker may be identified. This study uses shot length distributions as an element of film style in order to analyse the films by five directors featuring Charles Chaplin for the Keystone Film Company. A total of 17 Keystone films are analysed – six directed by Chaplin himself, along with others directed by Henry Lehrman, George Nichols, Mabel Normand, and Mack Sennett. Shot length data was collected for each film and then combined to create data sets based on the studio style and for each director. The results show that for the distribution of shot lengths in Keystone films starring Chaplin (1) there is no significant difference between films directed Chaplin and the overall Keystone model; (2) there is no significant difference between Chaplin’s films and those of Lehrman, Nichols, and Sennett; (3) there is a significant difference between the films of Normand and the Keystone model but the effect size is small; and (4) there is a significant difference between Normand and the other Keystone filmmakers but the effect size of these differences is again small. This study shows that the distribution of shot lengths can be used to identify how the style of an individual filmmaker relates to a larger group style; and that, in the specific case of the Keystone Film Company, it is the studio style of fast-paced, slapstick comedy that determines the distribution of shot lengths with little variation present in the films of individual filmmakers.

As before, any comments and suggestions are welcome (as is the pointing out of glaring errors).

The raw data was collectde by examining the films frame by frame in my editing software, and can be accessed in a Microsoft Word Document here:

For Microsoft Word 97-2003 (x.doc): Nick Redfern – Shot length distributions in the Chaplin Keystones – data

For Microsfoft Word 2007 (x.docx): Nick Redfern – Shot length distributions in the Chaplin Keystones – data