Movie Pulse app at cinema


Are you interested how forms of positive stress are triggered within a movie? Movie Pulse identifies those moments through temporal measuring your heart rate. A movie timeline with a graph is depicting the high and low moments in a 30 minutes interval.

Please note: Unfortunately, the app is no longer available.

How does Movie Pulse work?
Citizen Kane in 2 Minutes

Since I have access to the raw data of the recordings, I made some experiments with it. Here we have a mean data rate of all users, which I applied on the whole movie with the help of After Effects. The video depicts the average threshold of the majority – the image becomes tinted in green and red according to the higher or lower heart rates of test viewers. If an image shows a white frame: this means all viewers have reacted the same way, not only the majority. The graph below the timeline shows the computed mean heart rate.

David W. Griffith refers 1926 to Pulse in Motion Pictures

There are some serious attempts to deal with the fact that pace in movies has some impact of how a movie succeeds, in dramaturgical terms. I’d like to introduce an article by Mike Baxter, Daria Khitrova, Yuri Tsivian: „A Numerate Film History? Cinemetrics Looks at Griffith, Griffith Looks at Cinemetrics“. Yuri Tsivian and his colleagues found a very old proof that the topic I am devoted to – Movie Pulse – has been in discussion already 90 years ago. The mentioned article of the people above is dedicated to find similarities and points of contact for their own work:, a database for analyzing the montage of movies.

But as Yuri Tsivian introduced me the little-known essay “Pace in the Movies” by David Wark Griffith, published in The Liberty Magazine in 1926, I could hardly believe what I am seeing and reading: A woman trying to get her average heart beat while watching a movie, captioned: „Fans will find it fascinating to measure their pulse beats with the pacing of motion pictures.“ Baxter, Khitrova and Tsivian even considered it might be a hoax or at least an essay from a pretender, but no. It’s written by David W. Griffith.

Pace in the movies
“Pace in the Movies” by David Wark Griffith · Fans will find it fascinating to measure their pulse beats with the pacing of motion pictures.

Griffith explains the relation of the heart beat and pace, which he refers to as „the ebb and flow of pleasurable tides of excitement, the rhythmical movement of events toward the ecstatic consummation of romantic and adventurous dreams“. He makes several attempts to explain the formal movie structure of sequential images and their narrative structure in sequences, scenes and shots to make the readers aware of the need and use of different pace. And he does not only focusses on various climax’ and increase only; he refers to slow down and retardation as well.

At the end of the essay he encourages the readers to make a self-experiment to measure their own pulse while watching certain scenes in a movie. „You will find that it is, for the very good reason that the whole science of pace in the drama is founded upon your pulse.“ Well said (in 1926). Although today I strongly disagree to do it at the second screening – you can do it instantly with Movie Pulse and a Apple Watch. Just press „start“ at the studio fanfare.

Movie Pulse · How to read?


Accompanied by Dr. André Weinreich, Head of Research & Science fromemolyzr/Humboldt University, I’ve run several sessions during the winter semester 2016/17. We now have a gathered some data for the movies which had have enough attendees.

The numerical data provides two main starting points: either analysing the questionaire or the plain heart rate data. We check several options to find some correlations between them. The first obvious result is the relation of mean heart rate and liking. At present we focus on cluster analyses from both “ends”: the average rating as well as the individual pulse.

These are the mean heart rates of each screened movie in alphabetical order. In this earlier post some reasons are given, why these films were chosen. Most movies have been screened in a lecture hall, some at a regular cinema, which clearly caused immersiveness at different levels.

Some clues to read the data:

  • Have a look which approx. mean heart rate the movie evokes
  • Watch for immediate changes (up or down)
  • Look for sections which continously differ from mean heart rate
  • The dynamic range, the film has caused in general, is an indicator as well
  • Can an overall trend be identified in individual sections or the entire film?
American Psycho · Mary Harron · 2000 · n=16 (Berlin, Lecture Hall)

Awakenings · Penny Marshall · 1990 · n=16 (Lemgo), n=14 (Berlin) both Lecture Hall

Deadpool · Tim Miller · 2016 · n=16 (Lemgo, Lecture Hall)

Delicatessen · Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro · 1991 · n=14 (Lemgo), n=16 (Berlin) both Lecture Hall

Doctor Strange · Scott Derrickson · 2016 · n=16 (Lemgo, Cinema)

Fantastic Beasts and where to Find Them · David Yates · 2016 · n=15 (Lemgo, Cinema)

Gone Girl · David Fincer · 2014 · n=15 (Berlin, Lecture Hall)

Heil · Dietrich Brüggemann · 2015 · n=16 (Berlin, Lecture Hall)

Her · Spike Jonze · 2013 · n=15 (Berlin, Lecture Hall)

Labor Day · Jason Reitman · 2013 · n=16 (Berlin, Lecture Hall)

Legend · Brian Helgeland · 2015 · n=16 (Lemgo, Lecture Hall)

Passengers · Morten Tyldum · 2016 · n=14 (Lemgo, Cinema)

Robocop · José Padilha · 2014 · n=10 (Lemgo), n=16 (Berlin) both Lecture Hall

Schönefeld Boulevard · Sylke Enders · 2014 · n=15 (Berlin, Lecture Hall)

Stereo · Maximilian Erlenwein · 2014 · n=15 (Berlin, Lecture Hall)

Zootopia · Byron Howard/Rich Moore · 2016 · n=14 (Lemgo, Lecture Hall)