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Do You Know How Long An Average Scene Lasts?

If you want to make your own movies more interesting, think about timing and camera angles By David Hague

How long do you reckon the average scene in a TV show lasts for? A minute? 30 seconds?

Now I am not going to say; instead I'll encourage you, next time you watch something such as Dr Who, Torchwood, Midsomer Murders or similar, do a count between scenes.

There is nothing more boring than watching a fixed camera shooting a scene for a long period of time. And I define a long period of time as more than 15 seconds!




The other thing to look out for is the different camera angles that are used between scenes. In fact, that very subject is the catalyst for this small article. I am currently watching an episode of Dalziell and Pascoe*, and I was struck by one switch of angle in particular.

Dalziell (pronounced Dee-ell by the way) is shown walking towards a shop door from 3/4 behind angle, and then opens the door. To show him coming through the door, the camera angle switches to the interior looking towards the door as Dalziell walks in.


The beauty is that instead of having the camera face on at eye level, it is above and top left looking down from a stairs landing. When Dalziell calls out, the owner of the shop is "behind" the camera and on the next level, and Dalziell walks up the stairs past the camera and turns left to climb up.

It makes for interesting viewing, teasing the viewer's eye to actually create a 'map' of the scene and giving the actors a real 3D space in 2D to perform their magic.

So, if you want to make your own movies more interesting, think about timing and camera angles. These make a REAL difference and are the sign of thought being put into a production as against simply recording linearly what happened.

This even applies to home movies (sorry, family documentaries under the current vernacular). If we are going to shoot something to (metaphorically) tape, why not make it the best we can?

* Yes, I am addicted to UK police/detective shows such as Poirot, Spooks, Kidnap and Ransom, Miss Marple, New Tricks et al. Much better than the US pap where they are always shooting people.


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David is the owner and publisher of Australian Videocamera. He has a background in media dating back to 1979 when he first got involved with photojournalism in motorsport, and went from there into technology via a 5 year stint with Tandy Computers.

Moving back to WA, David wrote scripts for Computer Television for video training for the just released Windows and Office 95 among others, and was then lured to Sydney to create web sites for the newly commercial Internet in 1995, building hundreds of sites under contract to OzEmail including Coates Hire, Hertz Queensland, John Williamson, the NSW Board of Studies and many, many more.

David can be contacted via  david@auscamonline.com

Related Keywords:scene length, video scenes, camera angles, movie making, videography

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  • Do You Know How Long An Average Scene Lasts? by DMN Editorial at Aug. 02, 2013 4:53 pm gmt

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