Guide to memorizing movie/TV scenes and using them as memory palace

I have watched many many TV series. All of them I’ve tried to memorize in some extent. Just for pleasure of being able to rewatch some scenes and recall episodes in order, and thus not forget them, but also for using the places you get as memory palace. Here is my tutorial.

What to consider before starting to memorize:

Okay, now consider you watch something. It may be a movie, a TV episode, daily news, etc. You want to memorize most of the scenes. The first thing you want to consider is How much you want to memorize? If you are ambitious enough, you may want to memorize every scene of the movie. But this is hard because there is often more than 50 scenes. More manageable would be memorizing all the places of the movie. Usually some different scenes take place in the same location.

The next thing to think about is How much you want to remember about a certain scene?: are these the actors of the scene you want to be able to recall or the objects around them, or both. If you later want to use the scenes as a new memory palace, then you have to work harder on each scene.

Method 1 - pegs+linking

For memorizing all the scenes in chronological order you could attach pegs to certain scenes. For example peg1 for scene1 and then you link scenes 1,2,3 into story. Peg2 with scene4 and link 4,5,6 together. And so on.

If I say make a story of scenes then often there is not much for you to do, because the scenes already do make a story (the point of a movie/show is to tell you a story). What I mean is that you somehow strengthen the links between adjacent scenes. This is necessary if the scene jumps from one location to another, all the actors change, and the scenes have no notable connection.

For example:
scene1: President Obama giving speach, scene2: flood in Bangladesh, scene3: Robin Williams has died.
You could imagine that Obama is flooded away from the dais and vampire-like R.Williams raises from his coffin and starts speaking himself. Make sure you make the connections memorable (unique, funny). Also, besides concentrating on the details (Obama, water, Williams) you also want to pay attention to the scenes, like that the water comes from the scene of Bangladesh and the coffin from the scene of Williams, otherwise you might not later be able to recall the scenes itself (e.g. the house of R.Williams).

Also, don’t use “side objects” in link. E.g. a side object in the Obama scene would be a bench that a grandmother is sitting on and listening. If you visualize the bench flooded away there is greater possibility that you won’t be able to recall the flood, because you start recalling: 1. Obama scene. What happened? Don’t remember. That’s because you forgot to think about the bench, that is less notable than Obama and located far away from him. The same goes for pegs: if your peg1 is a wand, then you want to attach it to Obama (e.g. Obama used the wand and accidentally summoned the flood).

Much less linking is needed when two scenes share (main) actor. If Obama flew to White House after the speach then it’s not hard to memorize it. Just think where Obama went and what happened next.

Method 2 - placing the scenes

A while ago (when I had just begun with movies) I started in empty space and constructed there a palace using the scenes. That was hard and remembering the exact journeys could be problematic. However if you have a system for placing the scenes, then everything becomes much easier.

Placing the scenes along journey

You pick a journey you know well and at each station place some scenes. Sometimes it’s useful to place the scenes e.g. left, in, right, in front of and above the station (e.g. if the scene takes place in a room, then you see that room with its contents placed e.g. on that station), all together they should make a fluent construction. And you always do it in the same order, e.g. left->in->right->above->in front. If you want you can fly around the station to strengthen your spatial awareness, but it isn’t necessary. The main view is the one you view the station, and that is the one you use to recall all the scenes. Now you can use the station to recall 5 scenes!

Later this one station could symbolize one concept, like a certain disease or animal species, and you have categories of information about this concept. Each category you put at different direction.

  • station1, animal- lion: center (in); eating habits: left scene; mating: the scene above
  • station2, animal - giraffe: center; mating: the scene above, appearance: right scene.
Again, it's more efficient if around station are the scenes that are somehow connected, like the same actor. Or the rooms of the same house in the movie. You could imagine how the actor present in the scenes starts from left scene and runs through all the scenes in the order you placed them (preferrably cronologically). If the scenes at the station aren't connected, then don't forget to link them.

If you don’t bother to place so many scenes at single station or often forget many scenes (even when they are connected/linked), then place less scenes at station.

On the other hand, we can try placing much more. I use my new RGB system to ease the process.

Station: Tree
I like to begin with simple grid, usually 3x2. Each square can hold one or more scenes. Now add second floor 2x2 grid and connect them with wall, finally let’s add a descending structure to the right side.

This picture shows that in my mind I fill the squares with landscape, and determine the journey through that landscape. What you got around the tree is a stencil. That stencil can easily be reused for many other movies too (see RGB for more about stencils).

Now you place the scenes so that they mimic the shape of the landscape. I usually place one area of a movie on the landscape of a single square. That area can hold many scenes (e.g. one area of Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban’s could be the places with their scenes around Hagrid’s hut).

Instead you could also place portals taking you to that area, as I teach in RGB topic (you place objects), but you have to be sure that you’ll remember where that portal takes (has to be unique or sth; and remember about William’s coffin - did you also pay attention to his house, so that thinking of coffin you are able to recall his house?). In case of movies I prefer to place the areas themselves where I see the characters progressing, not objects that take me to the scene - I like to see the stencil filled with areas as a smooth memory palace where I can directly fly from one area to another.

I don’t always place the scenes strictly along the journey, because I want to make some kind of classification (scenes with good guys go left and bad guys go right). In the middle I usually place the most important scene, culmination, or ending (hence “defining scene”). In case Avengers: Age of Ultron the journeys went sth like this: avengers 1->6->7->8->9->10->11 … bad guys 11->12…their interactions 5->4->3… final fight 2.

In conclusion I’d say that memorizing movie scenes is quite easy, if you just have a bit imagination.

TV series

Memorizing TV series is much harder than movies, because in each episode there are same actors and usually same places. The examples of that would be House, Big Bang Theory, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones . The truth is there is no point to memorize all the scenes, since you won't get more loci. Then it's good to just memorize the new places and main plot.

Some of them are worth memorizing completely though. What I do in case of Game of Thrones in the beginning of season I build a small compressed model of all of its locations, put them on grid (season 5 from north: The wall, Winterfell, King’s Landing, Dorne; east: Bravos, Tyrions’s travels, Daenerys). Then each episode has its peg, e.g. episode 2 - swan. Then I let that swan swim through the exact locations that were shown in that episode, and connect their scenes into a story.

Then there are series that have some varying places: Dexter, Mentalist, Criminal Minds, Fringe - each time different murder scene. Also , Prison Break, Lost, Sherlock, Simpsons, Da Vinci Demons. Could also make models, and empty space in that model for new places in each episode. Then use pegs to play the story through.

Finally each time completely different places: Man vs Wild, Survivorman. In this case you can do the same as we did with movies, and again use pegs for episode numbers and stories. Although it’s good if you have a stencil that has certain places, e.g. meal searching, water, 1st night, 2nd day… rescue. Then see how Bear Grylls progresses through the stencil/model of that episode.

List of episodes:
Place the portals to the episodes along a stencil for that purpose (highly systemized), or into palace along journey, if you can’t differentiate between repeating stencils. The best portal in my mind is peg doing sth to or carrying sb/sth in the beginning/middle of its story of the episode.

Want to use scenes as memory palace?

Each scene holds potential for many stations. First, there are actors, then objects. It's very easy to recall most of the actors of the scene, because they talk, move, have a reason to be there. They draw your full attention and thus the objects around them don't get noticed, unless actors interact with them. Thus the easiest way would be using actors and the objects they interact with as stations.

Using actors
The problem with actors is that they are present in many scenes and if you use them repeatedly you get confused. I recommend using each actor only once. If you use them more you can’t just think: what did I associated with this actor? You have to think: what did I associate with this actor in this scene?, and this is harder and often confusing. You should also fix their positions - take one certain spot where this actor stands in that scene. Now you have ca 10 stations per movie.

Using objects
While watching a scene, pay attention to it. First try to memorize the “interactive” objects, the ones that actors use. Then the other objects, like a telephone book on the table, a coat rack in the corner, a window. Then visualize yourself inside the scene. The objects you selected are more memorable if you interact with them yourself. Walk around, rotate yourself, touch and use these objects and see them in perspective to the other objects (each object/corner/…whatever you choose to become a station must have an exact location). The background of the scene tends to be foggy and dark in your mind, don’t let that happen! The more realistic you make the scene in your mind, the more easily it sticks. Try to push your visualization limits as hard as you can, and all this while watching the scene (saves you time). Do it all in “journey” mode for creating the route through loci in the scene.

When later using the scene for memorizing information, then you just have to follow the same rules that apply in an ordinary palace. Here is a good page about memory palace.

More to read

My previous posts. They are outdated however, although you may find some interesting ideas:
  1. Comment on the 2nd placement system
  2. What to consider when placing a scene
  3. FAQ-s

Very informative post.

Yes. I just want to get the stuff I’ve learned out of my head. If I don’t systemize it and write it down, then I’ll forget it. By writing his methods down teacher begins to understand them better. Even if no one uses his guidelines, then at least the teacher can use the knowledge in his advantage. And when someone asks about his techniques, he always refers to what he has previously published (and the other stuff he has read).

I’m sure you are constantly experiencing the same thing :slight_smile:

A good challenge is to memorize films that have a non-linear timeline, such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” or “Memento”. I’ve been able to memorize only two films, being “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”. However this isn’t due to the method of loci honestly, I just rewatched them enough that their scripts have been ingrained in my head.

I can’t imagine doing this for a TV show though, that sounds very difficult.

Nice post!


Nice ideas in the post.

For me though, I just find the online subtitles of a movie/episode and memorize. I memorize one keyword per line. For scenes without speech, I don’t usually memorize them, but I guess you could always insert your commentary and memorize that.

The video usually comes back as you recall the subtitles.

I did this for a Sherlock episode (the Benedict Cumberbatch one) only with the locations that the story moves forward.

E.g. Museum, 22nd Baker street, Police station, Men’s room, Court, Jail, ATM, Diogenes Club, etc.

In a way, recalling the locations made me automatically recall the story as well. (BONUS!)