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.

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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.

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