ACMI Data Visualisation

ACMI is the leading global museum of the moving image – across art, film & TV, games, digital culture and emerging forms. With the goal of connecting makers, thinkers, and viewers within a vibrant space, ACMI’s mission is to empower the community to become creative and critical consumers and producers of the moving image.Tasked with helping ACMI communicate these aims through the diversity of their content, the challenge was to illuminate an insight into ACMI’s screening history between 2002–2016. As a starting point, I considered one of its core goals— to empower critical consumers, and asked how might that idea play out in a data visualisation series? What does it mean to be a critical consumer and how might one begin to critically analyse cinema?

Tasked with helping ACMI communicate these aims through the diversity of their content, the challenge was to illuminate an insight into ACMI’s screening history between 2002–2016. As a starting point, I considered one of its core goals— to empower critical consumers, and asked how might that idea play out in a data visualisation series? What does it mean to be a critical consumer and how might one begin to critically analyse cinema?

In thinking about these questions, I was drawn to the idea of tropes in cinema because it is an accessible way into film criticism. I wondered to what extent tropes may play out in non-commercial, art house, world movies and documentaries across ACMI’s 11,180 screenings. During my research, I began making a catalogue of the tropes which I observed by reading through the IMDB descriptions of each film and researching online. Using a ‘hunt’ approach I began tallying the most recurring tropes.

In reflection, my process for researching the data was open-ended, but it nonetheless revealed to me the circular nature of storytelling within cinema and motifs that appear to be universal to filmmakers across genres, periods, and demographics. The results from ACMI’s screenings were surprising but also showed the diversity of the organization’s programming in that no one trope dominated the volume of screenings, with the largest trope only accounting for 12.5% of the total screenings.

Each trope is represented by an icon, and its percentage is represented by allocated seats with the total amount of screenings represented by the remainder of the seats in ACMI’s cinema 2. The major design decision here was to keep the direction neutral in order to privilege the idea and focus the communication on the data represented by the seating symbols. Part of the solution was to simply incorporate one of ACMI’s current branding fonts Fakt Pro, a typeface which is inherently neutral and to give the composition ample space around the central visual action of the seats. Serendipitously, the repetition of dots which make up the seats happen to mimic ACMI’s branding device of the circle, which can be seen in their current marketing collateral.

Creating a poster for each trope provides a narrative structure, with the final poster comprising all the trope icons. The intention of the series was to also inject a humorous and memorable response to what it means to think critically about cinema. Further, by making the animation and poster series operate like a parody, the communication also promotes a feeling of openness which counters the exclusivity often associated with film criticism. At ACMI everyone can be a film critic.

Project Notes
Series design and animation: James Ratsasane
Typography: Fakt Pro
Client: ACMI as part of an industry partner brief in conjunction
with the RMIT Master of Communication Design Studio
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