Digital Studies 101

A common resource for Digital Studies at UMW.

Image Visualization

Why does Image Visualization Matter?

This topic may seem redundant, since images and movies are already visual, but what we’re talking about is analyzing images in a way or at a scale that, through visual means, reveal more about their composition, structure, origin, or meaning.

For example, what do you learn about a film by viewing it as a barcode-style image? Or as a single composite frame? What can you learn from thousands of selfies?


  • Think about artifacts of visual culture from a different perspective
  • Learn to analyze individual artifacts within a stylistic context
  • Compare different software and different techniques for macroanalysis of visual artifacts


  • Create the same style of visualization for a number of works by the same author, director, studio, or artist.
  • Create and compare several different visualizations of the same work.
  • After making several visualizations, see if you can correctly identify them with their source material.

Resources and Examples:


Whatever approach you take, FFMPEG will likely make your work easier and faster. It’s a command-line tool that can do many, many things, including extracting frames from video.

To install it on a Mac, use the terminal:

  1. First install “Homebrew”:
    /usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"
  2. Then use Homebrew to install ffmpeg with this command:
    brew install ffmpeg

It also works on Windows, but there are a few more steps.

Either way, assume you have a movie saved as “the_godfather.mp4” (it can be called whatever you want, that’s just what it is in this example) in a folder by itself with a subfolder called “frames”. To extract 6 frames per second, the command would be:

ffmpeg -i the_godfather.mp4 -r 6 frames/img-%05d.jpg

This will generate thousands of images, so make sure your hard drive can handle it. Once you’ve got all these, you can try dumping them into various tools below.

Tools and Datasets:


Slack Channel: visualization

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