average shot length Archives - Blog
AVERAGE SHOT LENGTH
Analyzing the average shot length (ASL) of films / TV / music videos can be very telling or completely irrelevant. Taken as its own metric…it is just a number. The supposition that action / thriller / sci-fi films genres have a shorter ASL is statistically accurate but that does not mean a longer ASL means less tension, action, drama or intensity. I have been deep-diving into ASL statistics for several years and shared a lot of SHAREABLES to help filmmakers and cinephiles further comprehend the mystery behind the numbers.
David Fincher is a precise and peerless filmmaker that accepts nothing short of perfection. On the spectrum of ASL as attributed to directors…he falls on the quicker end. Fincher’s average ASL for feature films can be calculated at 3.87 seconds. No matter what the number and how it compares with other filmmakers…his films never feel rushed. In my opinion, they bloom and play out at a sublime pace that suits each individual film. The amount of craft and care that goes on behind the scenes (and never seen by the audience) is second to none. I’ve been lucky to see the process first hand and helped create the post production workflow for GONE GIRL as his team made the transition to Adobe Premiere Pro from Final Cut 7.
Stephen Follows has an amazing article that further breaks down ASL by genre and number of shots to further delve into the analytics. Here’s a sneak peak at the ASL Genre Breakdown but please visit his site for the full story.
THE FINCHER NUMBERS
Back to David Fincher, it’s important to note that his films I’ve documented have a higher number of average shots than most films. Combining all genres the average feature film has approximately 1200 individual shots. By importing a full-length feature film into Davinci Resolve and using the Scene Detection function…I have been able to automatically recreate all the separate edits in an entire film. I then removed any edits that were created in dissolves or scenes with flashes that would add false edits to the final count. Here are my results.
Click on the images to enlarge to full 8K high resolution:
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – 3.2 AVERAGE SHOT LENGTH
GONE GIRL – 3.7 AVERAGE SHOT LENGTH
Until next time…
The average film has around 1250 individual shots. Action films and Blockbusters often have more than 3000 individual shots. This can be attributed to the ongoing trend of Chaos Cinema and the tendency to create false pace and momentum by simply cutting so frequently that it constantly bombards the viewer with new shots and information. This can become overwhelming and it creates a disconnected and jumbled viewing experience that assaults the audience. The frenetic pace exists but the audience can become exhausted as the eye and brain try to make sense of the imagery.
My most popular post of 2015 was MAD MAX: CENTER FRAMED which explained the cinematography and editing techniques used in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. Even though it had roughly 3000 individual shots, the action and story is comprehensible and digestible while still viscerally effective. Fast editing and ASLs (Average Shot Length) of around 2 seconds does not have to be a visual debris tornado that hammers the viewer. Properly planned shots and diligent editing can result in an energetic AND quickly paced film that tells a coherent story.
To make this point even more evident…I have compiled 5 films that average 2 seconds per shot and average 3000 shots per film. They are being played back in their entirety at 12X speed. The resulting video is 10 minutes long. Only one of these films remains comprehensible at this speed. You don’t have to watch the whole video…feel free to scroll through and view different sections and compare the films. You will see that the painstaking craftsmanship of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD survives the massive speed up.
Enjoy the video:
This bird’s eye view at high speed is something I often use as an editor to help judge the pacing and visual variety of my own work. By pushing the boundary of human information intake, it helps me spot trends, patterns and gives me an overall feeling of the visual mosaic I am creating at that moment. By speeding up the footage I can literally see WHERE in the frame the energy and emphasis exists and I use that information to my advantage.
Congratulations to editor Margaret Sixel on her 2016 Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing!
Until next time…
Cinematic insanity and Verdi’s Requiem (Dies irae) make MAD MAX: Fury Road one of the most viscerally assaulting and effective trailers I’ve ever seen.
Kudos to the editor and creative team that crafted this masterpiece.
Clear and understandable action with classically framed shots pushed to the limit using saturated colors…mixed with a sonic barrage of classical music elevates this trailer to bombastic heights. The pacing is also epic with a slow start and long dramatic shots which lead into a frantic second half that cascades shot after shot upon the viewer. It is controlled chaos…kinetic yet beautiful.
The trailer is 140 seconds long. (1.57 seconds per shot)
23 shots in the first 80 seconds. (3.48 seconds per shot)
66 in the final 54 seconds. (.82 seconds per shot)
This trailer achieves the rare feat of showing what looks like most of the major action scenes yet leaves the narrative untouched so the viewer still has the desire to go see the film. Tough to pull off but in my opinion they totally nailed it.
Coming to theaters Summer of 2015.
Until next time…
ROPE (1948) is Alfred Hitchcock’s murder/suspense film that showcases the killing in its second shot. ROPE is often described as having no editing…a film that plays out in real-time…but it had to hide the cuts due to the 10-minute film reel limits of the day. On further examination…Hitchcock’s gem actually contains 10 edits. Five of them are hidden as the camera lens is filled by foreground objects. The other five edits are regular hard cuts that not many people either realize or acknowledge. I’ve isolated all 10 edits in the video below so you can learn from the Master of Suspense on how to hide your edits without losing momentum in your story.