Shot length - a sort of discussion?

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Peter

Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Peter » Mon Mar 13, 2006 5:28 pm

A very interesting discussion a few weeks ago which was started by David,
eventually ran out of steam. I have since been thinking that there was an
aspect which passed me by at the time, but could be worth discussing now.

We were talking about shot length, and averages of about 3 seconds, with
the aim these days to cut shots to be even shorter.

I think, personally, that the shot length in commercial films has been reduced
for two reasons.

(1) We discussed the influence of advertising – and this is mostly pretty
factual. The advertiser wants to get the message over quickly, so very quick
cutting is employed. This saves money, as you pay for each second broadcast,
so a 30 second advert will be half the price (presumably) of a 60 second
advert. One could argue that quick cutting with punchy music can also be
effective. So this is now accepted as the norm.

(2) The influence of commercial films (i.e. Hollywood and the Independents,
in USA and Europe and elsewhere). The reasons for shorter shots, is not so
different here either, in my opinion. Time costs money, and so to get all
of the script, action, dialogue and everything into a given time slot, the
makers of commercial films make each shot as short as possible, even to the
extent of having dialogue carry on as the shot changes to a different location,
or starts before (especially sound effects) the next scene starts.

If there are say, for argument’s sake, 1,800 shots in a 90 minute film, (averaging
out at exactly 3 seconds per shot) then cutting 0.5 sec from each shot would
save 900 seconds – or 15 minutes screen time.

As the average film for the commercial cinema is about 1 hour 55 minutes,
cutting and saving an average of 0.5 second would save even more time – bringing
the film down to 1 hour 30 minutes – a saving of about 25 minutes. This means
that the cinema can comfortably have four screenings a day, rather than three,
which brings in more money for the film and the cinema.

Therefore, is it sensible in the amateur world to try and cut our shots down
to the bare minimum, when and extra two or three minutes added to a fifteen
minute film will not make that much difference, and could add something more
to the film? It will not these days add much to the cost (as opposed to shooting
film) since tape is relatively cheap. So basically I am saying that very
tight cutting could actually damage your movie (providing the shots do not
become long and boring of course).

I know that David was trying to get people to have quicker cutting to try
and improve the pacing of movies, and of course I’m not arguing against that,
just saying that this might not always be a good idea. I did see a film today
which put this in my mind, called “Good Night, and Good Luck” – which seemed
to have a good flow, and was cut in quite a leisurely way. (George Clooney).
(Its duration was 90 minutes too). Another film of Clooney’s seen by me recently,
was not dissimilar (Syriana). Perhaps this is a new trend, and maybe, for
me at any rate, a welcome one.

Does anyone agree, or have I lost the plot?

Dave Watterson

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Dave Watterson » Tue Mar 14, 2006 3:02 pm

"Peter" <forums@theiac.org.uk> wrote:
about shot length ...

You may be right, Peter, but I get the impression that commercial movies
are still generally long. We watch most of ours on DVD these days and often
find we have to be prepared for more than two hours to a movie. That tends
to argue against the idea of keeping them short so that cinemas can get more
screenings in per day.

There was certainly resistance from cinemas when the blockbusters began to
hit our screens some years ago and the running-times expanded - for exactly
that reason. Prior to that really long movies were Roadshows - special events
at specially raised ticket prices.

I suspect that modern audiences have become used to faster cutting and find
older movies often slow-paced.

Of course it would be appropriate for "Good Night and Good Luck" to have
an old-fashioned feel about it. "Syriana", however, we should expect to be
in the contemporary idiom.

Hmm.

Shall we all go along to BIAFF and count the seconds that each scene stays
on screen - then see if a high proportion of the top movies have more shots
per minute than the others?

Joke! That would be a criminal way to enjoy such fine movies.

Dave

Fraught

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Fraught » Wed Mar 15, 2006 4:40 pm

Back in the 70's, films tended towards the 1 hour 40 mins mark... then in
the 80's everything seemed to be hitting the 90 mins mark to cram in lots
of showings... but ever since Dances with Wolves (hitting the 3 hour mark),
films have slowly begun to hit an average of 2 hours per film. This trend
still seems to be thriving... which is great if you ask me... :-)


"Dave Watterson" <david.filmsocs@virgin.net> wrote:
"Peter" <forums@theiac.org.uk> wrote:
about shot length ...

You may be right, Peter, but I get the impression that commercial movies
are still generally long. We watch most of ours on DVD these days and often
find we have to be prepared for more than two hours to a movie. That tends
to argue against the idea of keeping them short so that cinemas can get
more
screenings in per day.

There was certainly resistance from cinemas when the blockbusters began
to
hit our screens some years ago and the running-times expanded - for exactly
that reason. Prior to that really long movies were Roadshows - special
events
at specially raised ticket prices.

I suspect that modern audiences have become used to faster cutting and find
older movies often slow-paced.

Of course it would be appropriate for "Good Night and Good Luck" to have
an old-fashioned feel about it. "Syriana", however, we should expect to
be
in the contemporary idiom.

Hmm.

Shall we all go along to BIAFF and count the seconds that each scene stays
on screen - then see if a high proportion of the top movies have more shots
per minute than the others?

Joke! That would be a criminal way to enjoy such fine movies.

Dave

Cinema For Thurso Group

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Cinema For Thurso Group » Thu Mar 16, 2006 6:43 pm

We just employ artistic sense to editing shot length. The basics are;
The shot should begin and end at the points where the character or action
starts and finishes moving- 2 frames before or 1 frame after at each end.
Exception applies where longated start and or end are required for dramatic
emphasis.
The position of a cut has a natural connection to attention span, i.e. at
what point do we become interested and there after when do we get board of
what we are looking at. A good editor will cut to this line naturally.
If it's about saving screen time then you are looking at economics and shouldn't
be doing the editing unless you are looking to fit more detail into the picture.
To this latter end CFT applies 4 editing phases which helps to iron out the
wrinkles.
1) Primarey edit- All shots in screenplay order at full 'can' length.
2) Rough Secondary edit- first trim inside shot ends to remove clapperboard
or action cues. Also removing unwanted takes.
3) Fine tune edit- Tightening of shots with further trimming of shot ends
to create the full pace and flow of the picture. Any additional re-arranging
of scenes.
4) Final Pace/sync edit- As it says on the tin where the film is brought
to it's exact length with all key actions in full sync position to match
the music score and sound effects, etc.
Maddness to try getting it in one edit run.

Peter

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Peter » Fri Mar 17, 2006 6:28 pm

"Cinema For Thurso Group" <canuimagine@btopenworld.com> wrote:
We just employ artistic sense to editing shot length. The basics are;
The shot should begin and end at the points where the character or action
starts and finishes moving- 2 frames before or 1 frame after at each end.
Exception applies where longated start and or end are required for dramatic
emphasis.
The position of a cut has a natural connection to attention span, i.e. at
what point do we become interested and there after when do we get board
of
what we are looking at. A good editor will cut to this line naturally.
If it's about saving screen time then you are looking at economics and
shouldn't
be doing the editing unless you are looking to fit more detail into the
picture.
To this latter end CFT applies 4 editing phases which helps to iron out
the
wrinkles.
1) Primarey edit- All shots in screenplay order at full 'can' length.
2) Rough Secondary edit- first trim inside shot ends to remove clapperboard
or action cues. Also removing unwanted takes.
3) Fine tune edit- Tightening of shots with further trimming of shot ends
to create the full pace and flow of the picture. Any additional re-arranging
of scenes.
4) Final Pace/sync edit- As it says on the tin where the film is brought
to it's exact length with all key actions in full sync position to match
the music score and sound effects, etc.
Maddness to try getting it in one edit run.
Yes - I would agree with most if not all of this!!

Dave Watterson

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Dave Watterson » Fri Mar 17, 2006 10:29 pm

"Peter" <Peter@nuthouse.com> wrote:
Yes - I would agree with most if not all of this!!
Sure, me too. C for T often makes good sense. But are we not all saying
"do what feels right"?

My belief is that what "feels right" for us today is mostly much quicker
cuts than "felt right" to our parents or grandparents.

Oh - and on a tiny detail - you don't have to wait until an action or event
is complete before you cut. I think "Morgan - a suitable case for treatment"
was the first professional film I saw to hammer that message home. Since
then it has become the norm ... you show just enough of an action to be sure
the audience can recognise it and anticipate where it is going - then you
move on.

Dave (speedy) W.

PS Does anyone else like to sing "Amphetamine Gazelle" now and then for old
time's sake?

Peter

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Peter » Sat Mar 18, 2006 9:02 am

"Dave Watterson" <david.filmsocs@virgin.net> wrote:
"Peter" <Peter@nuthouse.com> wrote:
Yes - I would agree with most if not all of this!!

Sure, me too. C for T often makes good sense. But are we not all saying
"do what feels right"?

My belief is that what "feels right" for us today is mostly much quicker
cuts than "felt right" to our parents or grandparents.

Oh - and on a tiny detail - you don't have to wait until an action or event
is complete before you cut. I think "Morgan - a suitable case for treatment"
was the first professional film I saw to hammer that message home. Since
then it has become the norm ... you show just enough of an action to be
sure
the audience can recognise it and anticipate where it is going - then you
move on.

Dave (speedy) W.

Dave and everyone
I'm agreeing only up a point though. I think the incredibly wonderful production
by the BBC of "Bleak House" was slighty marred by some jolting zip cuts.
This was the BBC just trying to be trendy. (It was for their crap channel
BBC 1 after all!) It was only in some of the episodes, and some of the time.
Perhaps a young trendy editor had his/her way. It should have been up to
the director, but we all know that the studio (in this case the BBC) often
prevails. (Look at the original ghastly editing carried out on Orson Welles
"A touch of Evil.")

When ever that sort of (bad editing) thing gets in the way of the dramatic
line of the play, it is unfortunate. In the end it should be the director,
who "should" be a drama expert, that decides, and if he/she wants scenes
containing shots lasting 20 minutes, that's what should happen.

As it happens I can cut as fast as the next person, but this is not the point.
Good drama often relies on hugely varied shot length - from 0.5 sec to infinity.

Michael Slowe

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Michael Slowe » Sat Mar 18, 2006 10:17 pm

"Peter" <forums@theiac.org.uk> wrote:

Does anyone agree, or have I lost the plot?
Not wishing to be rude, but yes! You can't possibly stipulate shot timings.
A shot lasts as long as the editor thinks it should last. There are so
many factors in the mix. The general pace and 'feel' of the piece determines
much and of course if there is dialogue the speech has to be completed in
a form likely to make sense and convey the intended information and it can
be done by using more than one picture for the same line of speech. I have
always considered editing as the main influence on any production and it
is in this department where 90% of my film making effort concentrates. An
editor has to run a sequence and even a complete rough cut time and again
in order to feel whether the rhythm is correct and of course we never get
it right to everyone's satisfaction but do it by 'rule of thumb' - never.

Peter

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Peter » Sun Mar 19, 2006 10:52 am

"Michael Slowe" <michael.slowe@btinternet.com> wrote:
"Peter" <forums@theiac.org.uk> wrote:


Does anyone agree, or have I lost the plot?


Not wishing to be rude, but yes! You can't possibly stipulate shot timings.
A shot lasts as long as the editor thinks it should last. There are so
many factors in the mix. The general pace and 'feel' of the piece determines
much and of course if there is dialogue the speech has to be completed in
a form likely to make sense and convey the intended information and it can
be done by using more than one picture for the same line of speech. I have
always considered editing as the main influence on any production and it
is in this department where 90% of my film making effort concentrates.
An
editor has to run a sequence and even a complete rough cut time and again
in order to feel whether the rhythm is correct and of course we never get
it right to everyone's satisfaction but do it by 'rule of thumb' - never.
Michael - nice to know you think I have lost the plot!! I'm NOT denying it
either, perhaps you SHOULD call for the men in white coats ...

Seriously though (you think I wasn't serious!!) I think what you have just
said, I was also trying to say. I do not think a director/editor should follow
a formular. That's why I said that there should be freedom for an editor/director
to have shots as short as a micro second to infinity. (Although no one will
stay around for ever .. and there is the possibility of running out of tape/hard
disk/etc etc.)

And yes, daialogue that uses more than one picture is fine, and that technique
has been around for many decades. I'm also pleased that you have put so much
emphasis on the editing. This is crucial to convey the feel of the drama,
or whatever, and yes, it takes many, many attempts before an edit is in even
close to being perfect. The same goes for the sound editing, which is an
area a lot of film makers sem to ignore, or at any rate have as a lesser
priority to the pictures.

My only gripe (not with you, I hasten to add) is that there is a tendency
to follow a fashion and try and make every shot as short as possible. This
sometimes leads to a boring film, just as a piece of music would be boring
if it only had demi-semiquavers and no crotchets or minims etc. (In other
words, only fast notes).

'Till we next cross swords

Best wishes

Peter

Ian Gardner

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by Ian Gardner » Sun Mar 19, 2006 11:44 am

"Peter" <pete@doghouse.com> wrote:
I'm agreeing only up a point though. I think the incredibly wonderful production
by the BBC of "Bleak House" was slighty marred by some jolting zip cuts.
This was the BBC just trying to be trendy. (It was for their crap channel
BBC 1 after all!)
Having not watched `Bleak House`, (not my cup of tea!) I cannot comment on
this but.... BBC1 CRAP CHANNEL! NO WAY. In my books, it`s the number 1 channel.
I NEVER watch ITV! The channel choises of programmes suck big time. To tell
a lie, I watched it last night for `It will be alright on the night 20!`
I love `Hustle` on BBC1. The editing is good with fast action cuts. Fridays
night one had a long shot following these two people, a black and a white
guy going to the shops. The scene was in one take, with all the interaction
of other actors in the street. The shot lasted for about 2 minutes. Very
hard to do, but quite excellent. It could have been done on the cheap with
simple cuts, but it wasn`t, and it was an excellent done scene. BBC Rules!
The BBC are also changing with the times and are loosing their old idenity.
Gone is the stuffyness, and in with mixed race presenters and fast moving
modern editing in programmes like `Watchdog`.
As it happens I can cut as fast as the next person, but this is not the
point.
Good drama often relies on hugely varied shot length - from 0.5 sec to infinity.
I can agree with this. Like I said `The Hustle` on BBC1 friday night, had
varied shots of different lengths and types. I love the traditional way of
basic shots, but I also love the quick and `not a tripod in sight` type of
shot.
The Editor is a powerfull job. With the same shots on tape, the Editor can
turn a film into a seriously slow film or an action film, all with the same
footage! He could make 20 different films with the same shots!

Ian Gardner.

L Miller

Re: Shot length - a sort of discussion?

Post by L Miller » Fri Mar 24, 2006 11:54 am

Not wishing to be rude, but yes!
I agree Michael !

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