Eye-tracking study reveals where we look when watching a film

Where do our eyes look when we view a film? You might assume that the main focus of interest is say the face of the actor who is talking, or the person walking across the frame. Mostly you’d be right, but as some recent fascinating research shows our eyes dart about the screen the whole time taking in lots of details that are sometimes peripheral to the main action. Researcher David Boardwell has used infrared pupil tracking to map exactly where and for how long 11 volunteers were looking whilst watching a clip from the film There Will be Blood.

This is really interesting work into how we perceive film and what directors and editors can do to direct the audiences attention. Here’s an excerpt from the film showing the tracking data. You can read more about the research here as well as many other articles relating to film academia.

“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.”

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