Reverse Engineer movies

You might have heard the catchy phrase:

To learn about movies, watch movies

This is true, and fun. But what do you keep from it?

Do you take notes? Did you log the sequences length? How many establishing shots with landscape scenes? Where are they in the movie? Can you compile them?

We had the same problem, so we developed our own tools to chop video based on scene changes (comparing frame N+1 with frame N).

It automatically cuts scenes and save it to a folder. It results in a folder full of videos, one per scene.

A long feature like The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring results in 2700+ scenes:

Then, we manually categorize them, like the 91 landscape establishing shots, in a sub folder:

This is very useful when you want to focus on one aspect of a movie, like its tone, and study it deeply.

We also tried with automatic cut based on audio. But with J cut, L cut and continuous music, you can't really get clean scene cuts.


For plots and dialogue, we have a different approach:

First, get the script, or the draft of the movie.

Then, we use our tool to extract the first image of each scene and we insert it into a huge table.

Finally, we add notes, sequences while we watch the movie and read the script at the same time, with lots of clicks on the pause button.

You'll certainly note that script is different from the final cut and dialogues are also different, roughly 50% for a "stick to the script" Director like Alfred Hitchcock. 

It's the actor's giving life and natural feeling to the script. 

In our document, we also added each shot duration since our cut tool counts frames and add the duration in the filename. This way, we can better understand the pace of the movie and how each shot helps the rythme of the movie. A color is calculated based on the average length of a scene, green is longer (plot, relationships, background story, ...), red is shorter (action shots, hints, moves, ping-pong dialogue, ...).

You get a document that roughly equals the length of the movie, 130 pages for a 120 minutes movie like Vertigo:

 In this single page, you can clearly see the speed increase of the shots and how the camera is getting further from Johnny and closer to Midge as she reacts to the situation and distills her feelings for Johnny.

This table is too heavy to be hosted easily, here's the full script for you to build your own, and discover the hidden ending that never hit the screens.