MoMA Buys Classic Films One Frame at a Time

I just watched eight classic films in five seconds. Don’t believe me? See the photo to the left? There, you just watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In 2004, graphic artist Brendan Dawes designed a piece of software that distills an entire film into a single image, calling it Cinema Redux. It samples a movie every second and generates an 8×6-pixel image of the frame at that moment in time, with each row representing one minute of film time.

Dawes submitted eight of his favorite films to the process, including Vertigo, Serpico, Deliverance, The Conversation, The French Connection, Taxi Driver, The Man Who Wasn’t There, and The Road to Perdition. The result is what Dawes describes as the film’s “fingerprint,” or its “DNA.” The project was featured at the recent MoMA exhibit “Design and the Elastic Mind” — a show the New York Times labeled as “the most uplifting show MoMA’s architecture and design department has presented since the museum reopened in 2004.” And yesterday, the museum announced that it acquired Dawes’ takes on Vertigo and Serpico as part of its permanent collection. Beware of spoilers.