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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Average Shot Length

ASL (Average Shot Length) indicates the average duration of a shot between cuts in a film (total film run time divided by number of shots). It's a data used to compare films from their editing style : how often do they cut, how long do the shots last. A long ASL means the film uses, on average, longer shots and fewer cuts.
Comprehensive example of ASL calculation (at OffScreen) : Bresson's Pickpocket (1959) ASL = 10"

"In my book, THE WAY HOLLYWOOD TELLS IT, I try to show that the acceleration of cutting in recent decades can be seen as moving from an ASL range of 8-11 seconds before 1960 and towards a range of 4-6 seconds in recent years." David Bordwell

For reference, in an overview of the Cinemetrics general database (all types of films) Yuri Tsivian notes:

"the fastest film made between 1902 and 1909 has an ASL of 15.8 seconds while the slowest one made between 2000 and 2006 has an ASL of 10.01 seconds. In other words, the fastest runner in the beginning-of-the-past-century group is 5.7 seconds behind the slowest one of the twenty-first century."

But films that would fit our profile of Contemplative Cinema are underrepresented in this sample. I add Satantango (as calculated by Bordwell)

Did I say minimalism? The film consists, by my on-the-fly count, of 172 shots including the chapter titles), across 434 minutes (not counting the final credits). That creates an Average Shot Length of about two and a half minutes. Quite a comparison with contemporary American cinema! Still, people who’ve actually seen the film probably expect the average to be much longer. (Angelopoulos’ The Hunters averages well over three minutes per shot.) Some shots of course run for many minutes, but others are fairly brief. Bordwell blog

Let's take a look at some ASL numbers for various Silent Films and Contemplative Cinema (in a broad sense) [EDIT: see graphs here] :

"CONTEMPLATIVE CINEMA" (since 80-90ies)

  • Russian Ark (2002/Sokurov) ASL= 96'
  • Macbeth (1982/Tarr) ASL= 31.5'
  • Five (2005/Kiarostami) ASL= 14'45"
  • Autohystoria (2008/Martin) ASL= 5'37" (17 shots in 91')
  • 13 Lakes (2004/Benning) ASL= 5'02" (25 shots in 126')
  • The Man From London (2007/Tarr) ASL= 4'24"
  • Werckmeister Harmonies (2000/Tarr) ASL= 3'48"
  • Hamaca Paraguaya (2006/Encina) ASL= 2'40"
  • Satantango (1994/Tarr) ASL= 2'33"
  • Damnation (1987/Tarr) ASL= 2' (57 shots in 111')
  • Eternity And a Day (1998/Angelopoulos) ASL= 1'54"
  • Ulysses' Gaze (1995/Angelopoulos) ASL= 1'46"
  • Woman is the Future of Man (2004/Hong Sang-soo) ASL= 1'39"
  • Fantasma (2006/Alonso) ASL= 1'28" (43 shots in 63')
  • Landscape in the mist (1988/Angelopoulos) ASL= 1'26"
  • Like You Know It All (2009/Hong sang-soo) ASL= 1'18" (95 shots in 123')
  • Unknown Pleasures (2002/Jia Zhang Ke) ASL= 1'17"
  • Liverpool (2008/Alonso) ASL= 1'14" (68 shots in 84')
  • Woman on the Beach (2006/Hong Sang-soo) ASL= 1'11"
  • La Libertad (2001/Alonso) ASL= 1'10" (63 shots in 73')
  • The Skywalk is Gone (2002/Tsai Ming-liang) ASL= 1'09"
  • Stalker (1979/Tarkovsky) ASL= 1'08"
  • In Public (2001/Jia Zhang-ke) ASL= 1'08"
  • Platform (2000/Jia Zhang-ke) ASL= 1'08"
  • Café Lumiére (2003/HHH) ASL= 1'07"
  • 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994/Haneke) ASL= 1'07"
  • Gerry (2001/Van Sant) ASL= 1'05"
  • Tale of Cinema (2005/Hong Sang-soo) ASL= 1'04"
  • Afternoon Times (2005/Boonsinsukh) ASL= 1'02"
  • Los Muertos (2004/Alonso) ASL= 59.3" (77 shots in 78')
  • Dealer (2004/Fliegauf) ASL= 66.2" (118 shots in 130')
  • Turning Gate (2002/Hong Sang-soo) ASL= 58"
  • The World (2004/Jia Zhang-ke) ASL= 57"
  • The Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000/Hong Sang-soo) ASL= 53"
  • Jeanne Dielman (1975/Akerman) ASL= 51.4" (223 shots in 191')
  • Prefab People (1982/Tarr) ASL= 47"
  • Few of Us (1996/Bartas) ASL= 38.5" (148 shots in 105')
  • Our Daily Bread (2005/Geyrhalter) ASL= 38.2"
  • Honor de cavalleria (2006/Serra) ASL= 35.7"
  • Stellet Licht (2007/Reygadas) ASL= 35.1"
  • The Wayward Cloud (2004/Tsai Ming-liang) ASL= 34.6"
  • The Outsider (1981/Tarr) ASL= 33.5"
  • The Power of Kangwon Province (1998/Hong Sang-soo) ASL= 33"
  • Freedom (2000/Bartas) ASL= 32.9" (169 shots in 96')
  • Family Nest (1979/Tarr) ASL= 32"
  • Three Times (2005/HHH) ASL= 29.5"
  • The Corridor (1994/Bartas) ASL= 27.9" (177 shots in 85')
  • Oasis (2002/Lee Chang-dong) ASL= 26.5"
  • The Outlaw Son (2006/Lowery) ASL= 26"
  • The Day a Pig Fell in the Well (1996/Hong Sang-soo) ASL= 24"
  • Drifting Clouds (1996/Kaurismäki) ASL= 21.5"
  • Three Days (1991/Bartas) ASL= 20.9" (219 shots in 75')
  • Twentynine Palms (2003/Dumont) ASL= 20.9"
  • The Banishment (2007/Zvyagintsev) ASL= 19.7"
  • The Brown Bunny (2003/Gallo) ASL= 17.9"
  • Elephant (1989/Clarke) ASL= ~17.8"
  • Old Joy (2005/Reichardt) ASL= 16.9"
  • Tony Takitani (2004/Jun Ichikawa) ASL= 15.3"
  • L'Humanité (1999/Dumont) ASL= 12.9"
  • In The Mood For Love (2001/Wong Kar-wai) ASL= 12.4"
  • Ariel (1988/Kaurismäki) ASL= 12.2"
  • Sous le Sable (2000/Ozon) ASL= 12.2"
  • The Man without a past (2002/Kaurismäki) ASL= 11.7"
  • Before Sunset (2004/Linklater) ASL= 10.1"
  • Shadows in paradise (1986/Kaurismäki) ASL= 9.5"
  • The Straight Story (1999/Lynch) ASL= 8.6"
  • 2046 (2004/Wong Kar-wai) ASL= 8.9"
  • Chungking Express (1994/Wong Kar-wai) ASL= 8.6"
  • As Tears Go By (1988/Wong Kar-wai) ASL= 7.2"
  • 3-iron (2004/Kim Ki-duk) ASL= 7.1"
  • Spring, summer, fall, winter and spring (2003/Kim Ki-duk) ASL= 6.9"
  • The Idiots / Idioterne (1998/von Trier) ASL= 6.9"

MODERN PRECURSORS (before 1990-80)

  • Almanac of Fall (1985/Tarr) ASL= 57" (115 shots in 120')
  • La Signora senza camelie (1953/Antonioni) ASL= 55.6"
  • The Prefab People (1982/Tarr) ASL= 46" (82 shots in 105')
  • Andrey Rublyov (1971/Tarkovsky) ASL= 34.1"
  • The Outsider (1981/Tarr) ASL= 31" (121 shots in 234')
  • Le Amiche (1955/Antonioni) ASL= 26.7"
  • Mirror, The (1974/Tarkovsky) ASL= 23.2"
  • Il Grido (1957/Antonioni) ASL= 20.2"
  • The Passenger (1975/Antonioni) ASL= 18.6"
  • Ivan's Childhood (1962/Tarkovsky) ASL= 17.9"
  • L'Avventura (1960/Antonioni) ASL= 17.7"
  • Death in Venice (1971/Visconti) ASL=17.4"
  • Husbands (1970/Cassavetes) ASL= 16"
  • La Notte (1961/Antonioni) ASL= 15.8"
  • Diary of a Country Priest (1950/Bresson) ASL= 15.6"
  • There was a father (1942/Ozu) ASL= 14.8"
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968/Kubrick) ASL=13"
  • Paris, Texas (1984/Wenders) ASL=12.4"
  • A Woman Under the Influence (1974/Cassavetes) ASL= 12.1"
  • L'Eclisse (1962/Antonioni) ASL= 11.9"
  • Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972/Herzog) ASL= 11.8"
  • Tokyo Story (1953/Ozu) ASL= 10.2"
  • Il Deserto Rosso (1964/Antonioni) ASL= 10.1"
  • Faces (1968/Cassavetes) ASL= 8.7"
  • Zabriskie Point (1970/Antonioni) ASL= 8.3"
  • El Topo (1970/Jodorowski) ASL= 7.9"
  • Lancelot du Lac (1974/Bresson) ASL= 7.5"
  • Floating Weeds (1959/Ozu) ASL= 7.4"
  • Bicycle Thieves (1948/De Sica) ASL= 7.2"
  • Shadows (1959/Cassavetes) ASL= 7.1"
  • Good Morning (1959/Ozu) ASL= 7"
  • Nuit et brouillard (1955/Resnais) ASL= 5.9"
  • Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes (1971/Brakhage) ASL= 4.6"
  • The Seasons (1975/Peleshian) ASL= 0.53"

NARRATIVE SILENT FILMS (for comparison)

  • After Death (1915/Bauer) ASL= 21.2"
  • Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. (1919/Wiene) ASL= 10.7"
  • Sunrise (1927/Murnau) ASL= 9.4"
  • Vampyr (1932/Dreyer) ASL= 8.8"
  • Frankenstein (1931/Whale) ASL= 8.6"
  • Faust (1926/Murnau) ASL= 7.9"
  • Nosferatu (1922/Murnau) ASL= 7.8"
  • People on Sunday (1930/Siodmak) ASL= 5.2"
  • A Story of Floating Weeds (1934/ozu) ASL= 4.6"
  • An Inn in Tokyo (1935/Ozu) ASL= 4.5"
  • I was born, but... (1932/Ozu) ASL= 4"
  • Strike (1925/Eisenstein) ASL= 3"

21 comments:

HarryTuttle said...

note: all ASL are in seconds, and only Satantango and Hamaca Paraguaya are in minutes!

It would be interesting to have more datas for actual Contemplative films, which go against this general tendency to accelerate editing (like Bordwell notes). Lisandro Alonso, Sharunas Bartas, Garrel would also make an ASL in minutes I suppose.
But these datas are interesting especially to compare the objective duration and the perceived lapse, which could vary depending on the "boredom" of the mise-en-scene.

Steve said...

I'd assume that Gerry might break the minute mark as well.

pm said...

ASL has some use in extreme cases (Satantango, say), but, as you note, it doesn't measure how that time is used, what's contained in the frame, etc. I was told by an internet Mizoguchi authority that he wasn't a long take filmmaker. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'm fairly certain his ASLs would be pretty impressive, relative to any standard but that of Tarr, etc. Mizoguchi's undeniably using long takes--but his takes don't feel like em because (1) they're often moving; (2) when they aren't, the composition's often shifting (figures move around, are revealed in the background, enter from off-screen, etc.); (3) they're often dense and not immediately legible, which has a lot to do with how long a shot feels; and (4) they're working within the context of narrative filmmaking (in a way that's distinct from other devices of narrative filmmaking, and so his long shots do demand attention as such).


Another reason ASL isn't great is because instances of fast cutting can skew the numbers. As Bordwell noted in his Satantango post, the shot/reverse meeting with the police captain in Chapter 2 does this. Hence, average, of course, but there are films that have increasing cutting tempos, and I would imagine that some films arc in the opposite direction. So, it's not an ideal descriptive tool, unless the world is uniformly edited across its duration.

weepingsam said...

I'd assume that Gerry might break the minute mark as well.

As it happens - when it came out, I counted the shots in the theater: I can't swear to these numbers, because I'm not sure how careful I was - but I wrote down (afterwards) that there were 92 shots in approximately 100 minutes. So - yep.

HarryTuttle said...

Gerry added. If you have more films to add, please do.

pm,
exactly. The ASL is only an abstract indicator for the editing speed, it's not a comprehensive understanding of long takes. Did you see that when you click on the database you get each film broken down into individual shots with a neat graphics. It's easy to notice the frequency of long/short takes, thus deducing the editing style.

Another thing about narrative films, is that action/dialogue/camerawork can make a long take feels shorter. Conversely, we are used to get countershots, intercuts, montage in a genre movie, so the presence of a long take appears self-conscious because it doesn't feel "right" from our conditionned expectations. So it goes 2 ways.

pm said...

Harry,
No, I didn't click through. Now that I have, nix the second reservation. Them's nifty graphics indeed!
Long takes in mainstream narrative films today tend to be self-conscious, too one degree (The Player's opening shot being a self-referential extreme) or another (the virtuosic display in your DePalma, Scorsese, or PT Anderson, say). They're often designed to stick out, as well as just sticking out due to habits you describe.
I caught two Tarr's tonight and came up with very nearly 4 min. for Werkmeister and about 2 min. for Damnation. Bordwell's Satantango post estimated its ASL at 2.5 min. So - long takes are addictive.

HarryTuttle said...

I added your count of Damnation to the list. As well as David Lowery's (who is a blogathon contributor) short film : The Outlaw Son, at 26"

Yes maybe long takes are addictive, they are not that "boring" afterall ;)
Although I enjoy a lot DePalma's and PTA's virtuosity. It looks great. Their purpose is different though, it's about spectacular prowess to catch the audience's breath. To the contrary of CC's intent to render montage quasi-invisible, by spacing out cuts and shot conventions.

weepingsam said...

Would I be a smartass if I suggested adding Russian Ark, which has an ASL of 96 minutes? (not counting credits...)

HarryTuttle said...

hehe. Wouldn't that be cheating? Is it 96' or 0'? There is no editing actually, so maybe there is no "shot", just 1 film.
I add it anyway ;)

HarryTuttle said...

Added :
Stalker (1979/Tarkovsky)
142 shots in 163'
ASL = 1'8"

71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994/Haneke)
85 shots in 96'
ASL = 1'7"

HarryTuttle said...

added: a couple of films cited by Bordwell in his latest post : The sarcastic laments of Béla Tarr, and a bunch of titles from the Cinemetrics database that has doubled since January 2007!

HarryTuttle said...

added: The Brown Bunny (2003/Gallo/USA)
304 shots in 92'
ASL= 17.9"
via IMDb

HarryTuttle said...

There is a post by Dong Liang on ASL at Noira-Blanchè-Rougi:
The champions of long shots

HarryTuttle said...

Added: Jia Zhang-ke's In Public, 30 shots in 34' (ASL= 1'8")

HarryTuttle said...

Added: more CCC films from the Cinemetrics database that keeps growing
We begin to get a sizeable list of data for comparison and trend analysis.

HarryTuttle said...

Added a few more from Matthew Flanagan's article at 16-9 : "Towards an Aesthetic of Slow in Contemporary Cinema"

-Stellet Licht (2007/Reygadas) ASL= 35.1"
-Honor de cavalleria (2006/Serra) ASL= 35.7"
-Los Muertos (2004/Alonso) ASL= 59.3" (77 shots in 78')
-La Libertad (2001/Alonso) ASL= 1'10" (63 shots in 73')
-Liverpool (2008/Alonso) ASL= 1'14" (68 shots in 84')
-Fantasma (2006/Alonso) ASL= 1'28" (43 shots in 63')
-Café Lumiére (2003/HHH) ASL= 1'07"
-Five (2005/Kiarostami) ASL= 14'45"

HarryTuttle said...

Added films by Hong Sang-soo from Marc Raymond's post at Film of the Month Club:

The Day a Pig Fell in the Well : 24 seconds
The Power of Kangwon Province : 33 s
The Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors : 53 s
Turning Gate : 58 s
Tale of Cinema : 64 s
Woman on the Beach : 71 s
Woman is the Future of Man : 99 s

HarryTuttle said...

added:
The Man From London (2007/TARR)
Run time : 123 minutes
28 shots
ASL= 4'24"

HarryTuttle said...

Added 4 films of Sharunas Bartas, timed by Matthew Flanagan :

Three Days (1991/Bartas) ASL= 20.9" (219 shots in 75')
The Corridor (1994/Bartas) ASL= 27.9" (177 shots in 85')
Freedom (2000/Bartas) ASL= 32.9" (169 shots in 96')
Few of Us (1996/Bartas) ASL= 38.5" (148 shots in 105')

Matthew Flanagan said...

Harry, it might be worth mentioning that my source for Few of Us (an ARTE broadcast) runs only 95 minutes (after adjustment for PAL/25fps). I have no idea where the discrepancy comes from - especially as more reliable sources than IMDB also cite 105 mins...

HarryTuttle said...

See ASL graphs for CCC films on this page