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Cem was at the inaugural Information is Beautiful Awards ceremony & party at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London because our work Metallica on Stage was shortlisted in the Data Journalism category.

The Awards were created in partnership by leading data visualisation studio Information is Beautiful and world leader in research and insight Kantar as the world’s first global contest to celebrate excellence and beauty in data visualization, infographics and data journalism. There were over 1000 entries from all over the world, competing in six main award categories: Data Visualization, Infographic/Infodesign, Interactive Visualization, Data Journalism, Motion Infographic, and Dataviz Tool or Website.

The judges were Brian Eno, Paola Antonelli (senior curator, Museum of Modern Art), Simon Rogers (editor, The Guardian datablog), Maria Popova (cultural curator, writer and master blogger), Aziz Cami (creative director, Kantar) and David McCandless (author, data journalist & information designer; creator of the popular blog and best-selling book Information is Beautiful). There was also an online community voting that affected all the category awards, plus one Community Award based on just the online voting.

With Metallica on Stage, we won two beautiful awards: the Bronze award in the Data Journalism category placing third after Stamen (CNN) and Guardian, and the Community Award. Thanks to David, his team and Kantar for organizing this inaugural event. And congratulations to all the other winners and long/shortlisted participants.

Photos by Bilge Kobaş

In January 2012, The Information is Beautiful Awards launched a data visualization challenge for Hollywood films from 2007–2011, providing an ”ultra-comprehensive dataset that lifts the lid on opening weekends, worldwide gross, budgets, storylines, review scores – everything – for every Hollywood film released in the last five years.” (Some movies that were released in late 2011 do not have enough data to be fairly represented in this visualization.)

Our submission, which wasn’t really finished due to our workload at the time, was shortlisted along with eleven others. Here we publish our finalized version with a more refined group-coloring for the genres, the addition of a size key to the legend, and the average and sum values for each genre as well as the sum values for all the 656 movies in the dataset (click on the image to see a larger version).

High-quality prints of different sizes and materials of this poster can be bought here, with worldwide shipping. (The png file you see on the web isn’t good for printing.)

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It’s worth mentioning that we made some changes to the genre assignments given in the original dataset. Specifically, we placed Avatar and the series of Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia in fantasy; the Twilight Saga in romance, The Last Exorcism and the Saws in horror, and Slumdog Millionaire in drama.

 

How to read the plots

For each element (movie or genre), we visualize two values – the budget and the worldwide gross revenue – with two concentric circles, where the area of the lighter shade circle represents the revenue. In the cases of the main graph (single movies) and the inset graph (averages for genres), these circles are plotted on an x-axis representing sustainability and a y-axis representing profitability. We calculate the sustainability of movies by dividing gross revenue by the opening-weekend revenue, and profitability by dividing gross revenue by the budget. These axes are logarithmically scaled in order to accommodate the wide range of values.

A high ratio of the gross revenue to the opening-weekend revenue indicates that the movie enjoyed a sustained interest and continued to generate revenue as the weeks passed. The movies that lie on the right-side of the plot have larger sustainability values.

The thick horizontal y=1 line indicates the region where the revenue and budget of a film is equal to each other. Below the line are movies that generated less revenue than their budgets – their lighter circles are inside the dark ones. However, since a movie typically needs to generate two to three times of its production budget to be deemed profitable (1, 2), the threshold where real profitability starts is higher above. The area below that threshold – where the movies that were not profitable are – is shown with darker gray, starting with the gradient.

At the bottom part of our visualization we see the big circles representing the total budgets and revenues of genres, ordered by the size of the outer circle, i. e. the gross revenues that they have generated, plus the huge gray circles for the total values for all the 656 movies included in the dataset. (This last part obviously is independent from the axes of the main graph.)

All circles on this visualization are drawn in the same scale, thus comparable to each other in size. The colors of all these circles are determined according to a 5-color grouping that we created for the genres of movies, which can be seen in the legend.

 

Take-aways

The action group appears to do worst in profitability.

Fantasy and animation movies follow a diagonal line, whereas horror movies look scattered along a vertical area with low sustainability. We also note that horror movies usually have very small budgets, and do much better than the other genres in the y-axis at both ends; they go higher than and not as low as the others. We can say that, for horror movies, the budget is not necessarily a good predictor of success in terms of profitability. From a profitability point of view, it may be wise for filmmakers to invest in horror movies if they don’t have much money to put in a single film. This makes sense from a sustainability point of view as well: after all, if a movie is a hit it will pay off its budget (and more) in the first weeks following the opening weekend, and if it is not it will be evident in the opening weekend and it will be easier to pull the movie out of the theaters – an effective measure to cut the costs by eliminating further promotion and advertisement.  

The typical patterns of fantasy/animation and horror movies are apparent also in the inset plot where the average budget and revenue values of each genre is plotted. The bottom graph shows that the total amount gained from fantasy is considerably larger than the amounts of drama, thriller or adventure, all having similar total budgets. These observations suggest us that we may see more horror and fantasy/animation movies in the next years, although the question of whether this is a new trend or a permanent condition remains to be answered.

The number of movies that are below the profitability range is substantial. Filmmaking is a risky business and production companies should be careful in risk management. Here are some links related to the risks and prediction of success in movie business: 1, 2, 3.

The movies with the Academy Award for Best Picture are marked with the silhouette of the Oscar statuette. These movies seem to be doing well on the sustainability axis, although this probably is a mixed result of their success in the eyes of the audience and the second life that they enjoy in theaters during their post-Oscar fame.

And yes, Paranormal Activity really is located at that position in the main graph – a dramatic display of its profitability.

 

Winner of the Bronze Medal in Data Journalism and of the Community Award in the inaugural Information is Beautiful Awards (2012). Listed in the 20 Great Infographics of 2012 on Visual.ly.

This is an examination of Metallica’s concert history from 1982 to 2012 with a focus on the numbers of songs played live and the albums that they belong to. We took the raw data from Setlist.fm (plus Last.fm in the last part), groomed it and visualized it with our own tools.

The colors of the albums – a key feature of the whole visualization – are chosen according to the album cover artworks; Metallica fans can easily understand which color corresponds to which album without reading their names. As a convenient surprise, new albums (Load, Reload and St. Anger) that are stylistically different from the old ones are all tints of orange-yellow and this provides a natural visual grouping in the charts. (Try to see this grouping when you look at the charts.) Death Magnetic, which is their newest album but musically much closer to the old ones, has its brownish gray shade (again, taken from the real album cover), and that separates it visually from the Load – St. Anger period.

High-quality prints of different sizes and materials of this poster can be bought here, with worldwide shipping. (The jpg file you see on the web isn’t good for printing.)

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In the first chart, the number of concerts given each year is plotted. In the second chart, the bar heights represent the absolute numbers of songs played from each album. The album release dates are marked on the grid columns with the corresponding colors.

The years 1982–91 are a very intense period for Metallica; they write a vast majority of the songs that are played live even today, and are involved in extensive touring. We can see that in the eves of the first four albums, Metallica continues to play gigs. With the self-titled fifth album, the band starts to quit touring and takes more time for songwriting before releasing albums. Maybe this is one of the sources of the famous “problem” (according to the oldschool first-four-albums metalheads) with the new albums; maybe Metallica shouldn’t be left alone before albums. This idea is consistent with the case of Death Magnetic which is not written in absolute isolation according to the chart, and has largely won the hearts of oldschool fans.

The year 1992 sees the climax of touring in Metallica’s carrier where each album reaches their all-time maximum play counts (except Justice), all dominated by the “Black Album”s overwhelming numbers.

Looking at 1996–97 we observe that Load-Reload songs seem to go well with the Ride the Lightning songs in a way that the remaining of the first-four-albums don’t. Interestingly, Reload never reaches the explosive levels of playing of Load after its release but it enjoys a more stable carrier afterwards (thanks to Fuel and The Memory Remains) compared to Load, ultimately not falling too far behind it in total play count (1115, 696).

St. Anger comes after the longest break in Metallica’s touring history (for obvious reasons) and lives the short and brutal life of a monster. (It is seen as their worst album by the oldschool fans.) It’s clear that Metallica aren’t happy with playing St. Anger songs live. It seems like Death Magnetic songs arrive to put St. Anger out of its misery; this is the only case in Metallica’s history where a new album entirely cuts the play count of the previous one. It can also be seen that Death Magnetic songs enjoy the company of the older songs instead of Load-Reload.

In the second part of our examination is a map of the places where Metallica has played live. The opacity of the red outer circles correlates with the number of concerts given in that city. The details about the northern- and the southern-most gig venues where Metallica has played are given in trivia boxes.

In the third part we see the total play counts by albums and songs. As expected, the most played songs are from the old albums, and the least played are from the new ones. But what if there was a way to compare the real “performances” of the songs in concert setlists, independent from their release date? To address this question, in the next part, we introduce the concept of Power.

Song Power is calculated by dividing the total play count of the song by the number of concerts after its first playing date. Album Power is the total play count of the songs from the album divided by the number of all songs played in all concerts after the date when a song from that album was first played (which may be before the release of that album) and then divided by the number of songs on it. This is a normalization to eliminate the advantage that the old songs have (they had more time to be played) in order to create more neutral rankings. You can also say that a song with the Power value 0.945 has a 95% chance of being played in the next concert. The Album Powers are additionally normalized with respect to the numbers of songs on the albums. (The Album Power values on the chart are multiplied by 10 for presentation efficiency.)

We see that the rankings change when we eliminate the time factor. Enter Sandman takes the lead as the most Powerful song and Death Magnetic, their latest album, beats all the old albums in Power; this means that Death Magnetic had a greater share of setlists after its release than the other albums did in their own lifetimes in average. Two songs from Death Magnetic are already in the Top 10 Most Powerful Songs list, prevailing over classics like For Whom the Bell Tolls and Seek & Destroy. Another way of thinking about Power is this: given enough time, Death Magnetic may well be in the top ranks of the Total Count by Albums list whereas Load, Reload and St. Anger do not seem to be moving from where they are. (Note that if we did the same analysis in 1997 we would have been saying a similar thing about Load; time will tell whether Death Magnetic’s Power will subsist.) S&M with its two songs presents an interesting case as it moves on top of the “Orange Albums” thanks to the song number normalization.

This part also contains the complete list of Metallica songs never played live in their entirety; among them are songs that are played in part (for instance, until the second verse part) or have been featured as riffs in a jam. Here Reload sticks out as the album with the most songs that are never played live. Kill ‘Em All and Master of Puppets are albums that had all their songs played live at least once.

In the fifth part we plot the Song Power on the y-axis with song durations on the x-axis. Here the first thing that strikes us is a pattern of orange-yellow squares tiling the lower part of a diagonal line between the upper left and the lower right corners. This tells us that songs from the Orange Albums tend to lose their Power as they get longer in duration; there isn’t one song from Load, Reload or St. Anger among the 19 songs located above that diagonal. This plot also gives insight about the natures of the individual albums thanks to the color-coding; for instance, it is easy to see that the black squares are grouped in the left half of the plot, meaning that the album Metallica consists of shorter songs in average.

Finally we make a comparison between the personal listening statistics taken from Last.fm and the concert setlists (after 2002 when Last.fm was founded). On the left are songs that have a greater share within Last.fm than within setlists in total, and the songs with greater share within setlists are on the right of the axis. This chart suggests that the band may further please the audience by playing songs from the left end (The Unforgiven, The Unforgiven II, etc.) more in concerts. The fact that there are fewer songs on the right side and their bars are much higher than the ones on the left side tells us that the setlist and Last.fm statistics have different distributions: there are songs that Metallica plays on almost every show and there are songs that they have never played live whereas Last.fm listening statistics are much more homogeneous.

[Personal addendum: In addition to all the objective analysis above, I would like to state as a fan that I love the Orange Albums as much as I love the old ones, and I am thrilled to see them played live. — Cem]

Praise on Social Media

  • andypotter (Andrew Potter) Lustig and also insane.
  • jmlacroix (Jean-Michel Lacroix) L’infographique le plus intéressant de 2011.
  • nag_acharya (Nagaraj Acharya) Whoa! This is for those of you who are doing a PhD on Metallica.
  • tmbrntt (Tom Barnett) not exactly a metallica fan but this is an all-time favourite infographic.
  • bquarant (Brian Quaranto) The infographic bar has been raised again.
  • clipperhouse (Matt ☼ Sherman) OK, this is actually an infographic. (Most “inforgraphics” are just lists done in Illustrator.)
  • DannyJWillis (Danny Willis) My new favorite data visualization ever.
  • dkastner (Derek Kastner) Here’s an infographic that’s actually informative, novel, and presents data effectively.
  • Fitoria (Adolfo Fitoria) La mejor infografía de todos los tiempos.
  • Brian Fitzhugh An infographic that is actually interesting.
  • Leah Root Wow! This guy put more research and effort into this than most people do for research papers or companies do for financial statements. He needs to be a CEO of something. A real ‘Master of Puppets’.