Solving the Genre Classification Conundrum

“Genre” is one of the most-used terms in the entertainment business. But pinning down exactly what we need by genre is challenging. Is an “animated adventure” an “animated” movie or an “adventure” movie? Is a “sci-fi thriller” science fiction, thriller, or both? With content being distributed more widely than ever, bridging the gaps in terminology is becoming vital for anyone looking to create or purchase movies and TV shows, or understand their audiences.

In a recent presentation  to EIDR’s Power Users Group, Bruce Nash, founder of Nash Information Services, which runs movie data service OpusData, showed how the genre conundrum can be resolved by considering “genre” in two parts: the classification of a title, and the context in which it’s being used. At the heart of the classification system are the three dimensions of genre: the creative universe the work is set in, the production method, and the emotions the creator wants to engender in the audience. Nash described each of these in detail, including the 10 creative universes in which every film and TV show ever made have existed, the three main production methods, and the 13 “mood” genres.

Once a title has been classified, a contextualizing algorithm can be used to decide how to describe it in context. For example, a movie might be thought of as being in the animation genre during production, but as a musical family adventure when it’s being marketed. A contextualizing algorithm can be used to determine when to use which term.

Finally, Nash showed how this system, as implemented in the OpusData database, has been used for purposes as diverse as predicting opening weekend box office and anonymizing sensitive business data for sharing between different companies.

The classification system can be seen in action on The Numbers web site here, and interested parties can sign up for a free trial of OpusData to get access to classification information on 50,000 movies and 3,400 TV shows here.