Shot length - a sort of discussion?
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?