The 401st Blow :: Thoughts On Media

What’s In A Name

Posted in Theory by Noah Harlan on March 4, 2010

“Bringing A New Understanding To The Director’s Cut” appeared in the New York Times a couple days ago. The author, Natalie Angiers, managed to pump out over 1,000 words talking about a scientist studying the rhythms of movie editing whose name is Dr. Cutting and didn’t get in one joke.

Why did I notice?

Because the rest of the article was pretty pathetic. It had stunning insights into film like:

“Researchers who analyzed the lengths of every shot in 150 Hollywood movies found that directors were increasingly using clusters of shots of similar length. Action movies in particular tend to use groups of quick shots in action sequences and groups of long shots in dialogue sequences.”

I don’t know what I would have done without that information.

People have been obsessed with film pacing calculations ever since Sergei Eisenstein used a fibonacci sequence’s golden sections to set the pacing of The Battleship Potemkin (and a reverse fibonacci for the steps sequence). I think the evolution of film pacing is fascinating and has a lot of reasons (like the move to non-linear editors) and a lot of consequences. If you want to read some real insight into the evolution of cutting and shot lengths, go to David Bordwell’s blog and read a post like his breakdown of Scorsese’s The Departed.

For now, leave the film writing at the Times to Tony Scott.

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