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Yuri Tsivian (Chicago)


The subject of this proposal, an online application called Cinemetrics (see, is intended for further study and analysis of cinema. Cinemetrics is an open-access interactive website designed to collect, store, and process scholarly data about films. Its ultimate goal is to create an extensive multi-faceted collection of digital data related to film editing. At the moment Cinemetrics is programmed to handle the aspect of editing known in film studies as cutting rates.

What are cutting rates? A peculiar thing about the film medium, noticed by many, is that it bridges the gap between spatial and temporal arts. On the one hand, filmmakers, like painters or architects, deal with recognizable spatial shapes; on the other, films unfold in time, as do poems or musical compositions. Though we tend to perceive their unfolding as continuous most films consist of segments called shots separated by instant breaks called cuts.

With rare exceptions, films contain a number of different shots. Shots differ in terms of space and in terms of time. We know enough about space-related distinctions between shots. Time-related differences between them are more elusive and harder to talk about, for, unlike in music or poetry with their scaled feet and measures, variations in shot length are not ones of distinction, but ones of degree. The only distinction a critic is safe to make when discussing shot lengths is between brief and lengthy.