Week 4, Day 2

Practicing Digital Methodology with Metropolis

Posted by on 11th Jun 2019

Today, let's dig deeper into some digital methodology by practicing some of the techniques you may be using for your project. Likewise, take the next steps in your preferred teaching HTML/CSS learning tool so you can be ready to create your webpage this week. To give everyone a common frame of reference, no matter which module you're working on, please complete all of the short projects for today: film visualization, text analysis, and network mapping.

Today's Goals

  • Practice film visualization with Metropolis (1927)
  • Practice text analysis with the transcript of Metropolis.
  • Keep progressing with your preferred HTML/CSS instructional website
  • Locate additional, alternative web-based courses for learning HTML and share those with us in Slack

Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, is a famous and influential science fiction film from the early days of cinema. It tells the story of a futuristic city where the vast wealth disparity between the upper and lower classes leads to conflict. In the middle of trying to find a peaceful resolution, a mad scientist makes robot double of the beautiful Maria, which ends up leading the lower classes to a violent revolution. It's complicated, but vivid, so it makes a good case study for the three digital methodological explorations below. It's also readily available on YouTube, so if you're not familiar with the film, it's possible to jump to parts of it that you may be interested in.


Please Note: What follows here are "warm up" exercises where I've already done a significant amount of the work. You are still responsible for your own Digital Methodology module this week.

Analyzing Metropolis Visually


To analyze a film at a macro level, it's often useful to extract frames from the video and analyze or arrange them all at once. Getting the frames is usually the hardest part, so I've gone ahead and done that for Metropolis. I used a tool called FFmpeg to extract one frame per second, and I compressed the folder of those output images into a zip archive that I uploaded to Google Drive.

  1. Download that Zip file
  2. Unzip it (or extract files, whatever your computer suggests)
  3. See what you can do with those 8,834 images

I recommend using a tool I hacked together called IMJ. On that webpage, you can upload all of those frames, then try to generate different arrangements of them. This webpage actually doesn't store anything, and all the processing is done on your computer, so the amount of time it takes for a visualization will vary. It will also take up a lot of memory on your computer, unfortunately.

Try making a "movie barcode" first, then try changing the settings on other visualizations to see what you can come up with.

When you generate one you like, save it by right-clicking on the image and selecting "Save as..." Share it in Slack in a "#methodology-practice" channel and tell us why you chose to share this one.

Analyzing Metropolis Textually


Metropolis is a silent film, but it still has dialogue and narration via intertitles. This gives us some text we can work with at a large scale using a suite of tools hosted at Voyant Tools.org. Using the tool is pretty easy, but interpreting the results is a challenge.

I found the script for Metropolis on a website called Script-o-Rama.com. I don't know if it's 100% accurate, but it seems close enough.

Paste the URL to this script in the box at Voyant-Tools.org and take a look at the visualizations you see there in the five window panes. For each of the 5 window panes you can:

  1. Change what appears there by clicking on the "Windows" icon ().
  2. Customize the settings for that view with the "toggle" icon ().
  3. Use the "share" icon () to create a :unique URL for this view", like this scatterplot of the script.

Find one you like or that seems particularly good at explaining something, and share it in our "#methodology-practice" channel.

Analyzing Metropolis's Networks


Finally, with the resources at IMDB.com, it's possible find networks of relationships among directors, actors, and films. I've started working on a Kumu map of Metropolis including nodes for the movie, the director and a few of the actors. I've also included a node for another of Fritz Lang's movies, M (1931).

Now, it would be nice if I could ask you to contribute to this map by looking for and connecting actors or other people that were involved in both M and Metropolis (I found at least one), but since that requires several steps with Kumu (you have to create an account, then I have to invite you to edit my map), we can just do this one informally.

Take a look at the map embedded below. Then, look on IMDB.com for Metropolis and see if you can find any cast connections between it and M. Or, see if you can find other movies with some of the same collaborators. Share these in Slack (#methodology-practice) and I'll try to add these through the day as they're suggested.

Also, don't forget to keep progressing with your preferred HTML/CSS instructional website, and if you have found or know of additional, alternative web-based courses for learning HTML and share those with us in Slack!