Moviegoers don’t care about CGI, say neuroscientists

All those fantastical worlds filmmakers create on computers might give movies an impressive backdrop or stunningly scary monsters, but when it comes to CGI, it turns out viewers’ natural reaction is… meh.

Neuroscientists from Birkbeck teamed up with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AKA the Oscars people) and Swedish eye tracking company Tobii, to find out which parts of a film hold moviegoers’ attention. They collected eye-tracking data from 75 people as they played them an action scene from the start of Iron Man 2.

Once they’d collected this information, they were then able to collate the results and create a heat map showing the areas that most caught people’s interest. As Engadget reports, they discovered that we tend to zero in on the things in the scene that we know are real, like people’s faces (as in the screen capture above – has Gwynnie ever looked better?) rather than special effects, however exciting they may be.

The Academy held a two-day event called ‘Movies in Your Brain: The Science of Cinematic Perception’, where Tim Smith from Birkbeck presented these results. Iron Man 2’s director, Jon Favreau, was also there, and said that part of making movies is guessing where an audience will focus, and trying to account for that. Smith and his team hope that by gaining insight into how filmmakers are able to steer our attention, they can gain a better understanding of how we process visual information from screens and in real life.

Image by Marvel Studios and Tobii, via the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Diane Shipley