Have you seen the movie King Kong? Yes I mean the 2005 version, not the 1933 one. But if you’ve seen both, you will realize how much movie-making has changed. With the same subject material, notice how different the soundtrack and extra effects are. Of course in 1933, we didn’t have computers, but still the ability of what CGI has been able to achieve is remarkable. They are responsible for making the ‘King’ appear far more realistic and believable.
But the craft of movie-making has changed in other less apparent ways.
Shorter attention span
Our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Companies selling their products wish to attract us with competing temptations. Thus we are less able to focus for longer periods of time. From an average shot length of 12 seconds in 1930 to about 2.5 seconds today, this is proof that moving the image on screen has become the norm of today. Our minds are trained to focus on something new. Thus the movie-crafter continuously shifts the image, so that our focus remains on-screen and we continue to watch. Instead of being distracted by a huge variety of competing interests. Another reason for this could be that in the 1930s, there used to be many more characters in the shot. Thus the viewer needed time to understand the positioning and thus role of each character in the scene.
William James, the American psychologist wrote in 1890, “There is no such thing as voluntary attention sustained for more than a few seconds at a time.”
Show me the Money
The movie business was nowhere as big a business in the 1930s as it is today. Movies grossing Billions of dollars could not even be imagined then. This has resulted in movie-makers being able to afford a few luxuries, such as more footage. So they can work with shorter sequences. Contrast this with the mood in the 40s and 50s when many of these movies were made on a low budget and long takes proves cheaper.
The term “action movie” is well understood today. That was not the case in the 1930s. Faster and more furious action, combined with short takes, has been of the formulas of Hollywood to engage the audience and keep them hooked. There is also a physiological stimulus to this. Our heart beat increases and thus the adrenalin racing in our system makes us feel like we are part of the ‘action’. Now we are truly engaged.
The use of a wider spectrum of light has opened creative avenues for film-makers. The higher quality of digital stock makes much more technological progress possible. A useful addition here is the ability to convert 16mm film to DVD. Add to that the analytical tools that the computer provides and you can now virtually mould the image in any which way that you desire. Instead of like in the 1930s, when the visible image being captured on the film was very close to the final product, today that is just the rawest form of it. There are so many possibilities on how to process that, it is mind-bending.
The most remarkable difference between the 1933 and the 2005 productions of King Kong are the special effects. There is simply no match between the two eras. This has unleashed the imagination of the viewer. And the mind is trained to focus and be attracted to new images. Thus captivating our imagination lines the studios’ pockets. So they are letting their creative juices flow like never before.
That is also a reason for some of today’s movies being some of the most expensive. It is the special effects created for these blockbusters that are busting money records of their own, first as costs in the creation, and then as revenue at the box office.
About the Author
Luke is a movie buff. Having watched endless movies, he has been fascinated by the art of movie-making. Even though it is at heart, the telling of a tale, the manner in which that is told is so very changing.