Once Upon A Time In The West

Like other genres, Westerns often share a distinct look and feel, including their reliance on landscape, strong statements about characters through their positioning in the frame, and of course, that ever-present big sky.

But Westerns certainly evolved over time, and Medium investigates how form, shape, color, and saturation change at the macro-level by stacking every 10th second frame of a film for 50 Westerns. Certain elements like a long credit sequence and a top-line bleed of sunlight may run through, but otherwise, individual elements are indistinguishable. From there, ImageJ is used to plot these films according to brightness, hue, and saturation.


In addition to the frame stacking, additional compositions are created, including unstacking the frames in Ride The High Country to get a better sense of how the composite image is created. Two frames from Once Upon A Time In The West are examined, allowing some conclusions to be drawn about Sergio Leone’s 1968 masterpiece. A “barcode” view is also offered for The Searchers, which compresses the frames horizontally, until the entire film fits onto a web page in a single band.

The piece concludes with the composite stacked image from Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate. The single frame presents a strong, accurate representation of the film’s aesthetic.