DECONSTRUCTOR - An Online Film Analysis Tool DECONSTRUCTOR - An Online Film Analysis Tool


The Deconstructor application is no longer accessible. Unfortunately, software ages and the support for the original underlying framework and database is no longer available at Columbia. For a peek at The Deconstructor, see the presentation by Professor Engel at the New Media in Education Conference 2003.

Welcome. The Deconstructor should be considered an aide to those who seek to analyze scenes from films shot-by-shot. Several basic elements common to all film shots, including compositional and kinetic ones, are set on what we’re calling a databoard, the place where each shot of a sequence is investigated. This is the place where the underlying grammar of film begins to be realized. By assigning number values to certain film “traits” it is possible to graph these variables shot by shot to see something that is akin to a score of the scene. Certain rhythms and cycles become apparent when looking at scenes from masterpieces that are often hidden from the viewer when he or she is watching the film.

Not everything in a film scene may be reduced to a number, so this methodology has its limits. But some of the basic cinematic structures that many of us talk about may be analyzed successfully this way. These include shot type, duration, angle, along with motion vector elements such as screen direction and certain parts of mis-en-scene.

I first learned of the beauty and uniqueness of film language through Stefan Sharff, whose brilliant teaching here at Columbia inspired me to become a teacher and filmmaker many, many years ago. He taught Analysis of Film Language before me. As a graduate student in the film division I sat in his course each semester for two years. After I joined the faculty in 1976 I continued to sit in his class for the next 6 years. His approach to film grammar and syntax made sense to me and opened a way of seeing film that I hadn’t thought of before. This new tool is a way of continuing his work and helping students more easily collect data necessary to discuss and learn about film’s inherent grammatical underpinnings.

I hope that the Deconstructor also helps budding filmmakers pre-visualize their work more easily and with greater success of effective film phrasing.

I’d like to thank, here in the introduction to the site, Peter Sommer the Director of Education for Projects and Services for the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning for inviting me in to a wonderful place of work and exploration, and for being just about as obsessed as I am with Man With The Movie Camera. I really have been amazed with what Kristen Sosulski and her fine team have been able to accomplish so far in so little time. Charlotte Rademaekers, a former student of mine, was the one who started this thing going in the first place; it was she who dragged me over to meet Peter and start the dialogue. So I really owe her a big thank you.

I hope that students outside my classes, even outside the film division will one day use this tool in ways that I can’t predict. I think of the Deconstructor as a tool with enough flexibility that it can work with any set of images on any screen and therefore should have utility for other media studies such as journalism, television, photography, and the fine arts.

We look forward to finding out it works for you, the user. Thanks again for taking a test spin!

Please log in to begin your session.

Larry Engel

The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning.