One concept to which late critic Roger Ebert introduced to many of his readers was the average shot length (ASL), or the average amount of time between cuts in a movie. Modern movies tend to have a lower ASL than classic films, a phenomenon some might attribute to shorter attention spans among audience members. Contemporary filmmakers are less likely to use long, unbroken takes in their movies, preferring to switch rapidly from one angle to another. Vashi Nedomansky, a film editor whose resume includes Sharknado 2: The Second One, has been paying close attention to this trend, possibly because it affects his job directly. In an article called “The Fastest Cut: Furious Film Editing”at his personal website, Nedomansky presents some startling ASL statistics along with some commentary on what it all means.
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.
To illustrate his point even further, Nedomansky has created an accompanying video in which five films with especially low ASLs (think one or two seconds) are juxtaposed and compared. In the clip, Mad Max: Fury Road, Domino, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Taken 3, and The Bourne Ultimatum play simultaneously in little boxes on the screen. These movies run at 12 times their normal speed, so the video only takes about ten minutes to watch. The original audio has been replaced with Dvořák’s so-called New World Symphony. Interestingly, while the other four films become blurs of incomprehensible images when sped up, Fury Road remains still more or less comprehensible. Nedomansky attributes this to “properly planned shots and diligent editing.” One more factor in Fury Road’s factor is that it is relatively light on dialogue and relies on clear, consistent visuals to tell its story.
[via One Perfect Shot]