I’ve just come across the DIEM project which tracks your eye movements as you watch something and sees exactly where your attention is fixed at each moment. You could spend hours on this, but here are three of my favourite video clips.
“This is an excerpt from There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007). 11 adult viewers were shown the video and their eye movements recorded using an Eyelink 1000 (SR Research) infra-red camera-based eyetracker. Each dot represents the center of one viewer’s gaze. The size of each dot represents the length of time they have held fixation.”
There are different ways of displaying the eye movements, as explained on the DIEM project website:
The DIEM project is an investigation of how people look and see. DIEM has so far collected data from over 250 participants watching 85 different videos. The data together with CARPE will let you visualize where people look during dynamic scene viewing such as during film trailers, music videos, or advertisements. CARPE, or Computational and Algorithmic Representation and Processing of Eye-movements, allows one to begin visualizing eye-movement data in a number of ways.
There are a number of different visualization options:
- low level visual features that process the input video to show flicker or edges;
- heat-maps that show where people are looking;
- clustered heat-maps that use pattern recognition to define the best model of fixations for each frame;
- peek-through which uses the heat-map information to only show parts of the video where people are looking.
The next two clips use the heat maps, which show where the communal gaze is fixed by aggregating the focal points of individual viewers. The first frenetic piece is from the Simpsons, and shows how we tend to follow the action. But notice how we try to read any written words that pop up in the picture even if they are not at the centre of the activity (e.g. the blackboard in the classroom).
The next is from the third US Presidential debate between Obama and McCain. Keep watching to see how the attention changes as the camera pulls back, and the wives come onto the stage.
I don’t know what we learn from all this! Film directors, psychologists, and advertisers must all be fascinated to analyse the results.