Thursday, May 29, 2008


Cinemetrics is a website devoted to compiling Average Shot Lengths, or ASLs, of films both new and old. It is by no means complete, as it consists of user submissions, but it's fascinating nonetheless. It's interesting to see the difference between silent classics like The Great Train Robbery (ASL: 49 seconds) and newer films like Land of the Dead (ASL: 2.5 seconds). Some directors are more extreme than others. Avant Garde filmmaker Jan Svankmajer actually manages to break the two-second barrier, while Andrei Tarkovsky, a personal favorite of mine, comes in at a whopping 70 seconds per shot. Pre-1960, the average for all the films listed is roughly ten seconds-- only the Russian proponents of montage like Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein get below 3-- but from then on it goes down by half to around five seconds. A sign of technical progress, or merely reduced attention spans?

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