Dissertation Index

Author: Lipscomb, Scott D.

Title: Cognition of musical and visual accent structure alignment in film and animation

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles

Begun: May 1993

Completed: March 1995


This investigation examines the relationship between the musical sound and visual images that are melded into a typical motion picture experience. Most research in this area has dealt with associational aspects of the music and its affect on the perception of still pictures or on "characters" within film sequences. In contrast, the present study deals specifically with the relationship of points perceived as accented musically and/or visually. The following research questions will be answered: 1) What are the determinants of "accent" (i.e. points of emphasis or salient moments) in the visual and auditory fields? 2) Do subjects have a relatively consistent individual-specific and/or collective expectation for the manner in which the two accent structures should be aligned? 3) Is the precise alignment of the auditory and visual strata sufficient to ensure that the observer finds the combination effective?

Three experiments were conducted using a post-test only, repeated measures factorial design. In all three experiments, the method remained consistent, incorporating two separate groups (a semantic differential task and a similarity judgment task), while varying the complexity of the audio-visual stimuli. Experiment One used scalar pitch sequences with simple computer animated images of a circle moving around the screen. Experiment Two utilized excerpts from experimental animations created by Norman McClaren. And Experiment Three made use of actual motion picture excerpts. In each of these experiments, there were three possible relationships between the musical sound and visual images: synchronized (accents in the music occur at the same temporal rate and are perfectly aligned with accents in the visual image), out-of-sync (accents occur at the same rate, but are offset), or dissonant (accents occur at different rates).

In the semantic differential task, it is hypothesized that subject preference ratings (Group One) will be highest for the synchronized combinations, lowest for the out-of-sync combinations, and intermediate for the dissonant relationship. In the similarity judgment task (Group Two), it is hypothesized that the similarity ratings will result in an MDS solution consisting of three dimensions: musical stimulus, visual stimulus, and accent alignment. The first two dimension will account for an increasingly large proportion of the total variance as the stimuli move from simple pitch sequences accompanying abstract images to real movie excerpts, because of the relative complexity within both the musical and visual vector fields, increasing the potential sources of accent at any point in time. The long-term goal of this line of research is to determine the fundamental principles governing interaction between the auditory and visual components in the motion picture experience.

Keywords: music, film, auditory, visual, synchronization, alignment, accent, cognition, perception, cinema


Related Literature
Experiment One
Experiment Two
Experiment Three
Data Analysis & Interpretation


Scott D. Lipscomb
1817 N. Fuller #102
Los Angeles, CA 90046
phone: (213) 878-0237
FAX: (310) 206-4738 (UCLA)
email: izzy2of@mvs.oac.ucla.edu

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