Average Shot Length
The average shot length (ASL) in commercial films has been on a steady decline since the 1960s. Whereas in the 1960s, the ASL for Hollywood films was 10 seconds of continuous visual experience, by the 2000s films were regularly coming out with ASLs under 2 seconds.[i] In 2019 I was editing social media video content for a big tech company. Their marketing team told me that the ideal tempo for the videos I was editing could be thought of as “a heartbeat edit,” with elements changing every half-second. What is the experience of time that we are creating for ourselves? How does this shape us, our bodies, our minds?
Average Shot Length follows this acceleration. 6 minutes of darkened 16mm film play out. Each minute corresponds to a decade, beginning with the 1960s. The film is regularly punctuated by a flash of overexposed film to indicate the average shot length for each respective decade and ultimately for the contemporary internet’s seeming demand for a “heart-beat edit.” In the 1960s the typical ASL was 10 seconds. A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60-100 beats per minute.[ii] The final minute in Average Shot Length reflects a healthy heart rate of 70 bpm.
[i] David Bordwell “Intensified Continuity Visual Style in Contemporary American Film” Film Quarterly Vol. 55 No. 3 [ii] mayoclinic.org “What’s a normal resting heart rate?” Retrieved 12.7.20