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A long take or oner is an uninterrupted shot in a film which lasts much longer than the conventional editing pace either of the film itself or of films in general, usually lasting several minutes. It can be used for dramatic and narrative effect if done properly, and in moving shots is often accomplished through the use of a dolly or Steadicam. Long takes of a sequence filmed in one shot without any editing are rare in films.
The term "long take" is used because it avoids the ambiguous meanings of "long shot", which can refer to the framing of a shot, and "long cut", which can refer to either a whole version of a film or the general editing pacing of the film. However, these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably with "long take".
When filming Rope (1948), Alfred Hitchcock intended for the film to have the effect of one long continuous take, but the cameras available could hold no more than 1000 feet of 35 mm film. As a result, each take used up to a whole roll of film and lasts up to 10 minutes. Many takes end with a dolly shot to a featureless surface (such as the back of a character's jacket), with the following take beginning at the same point by zooming out. The entire film consists of only 11 shots. (For a complete analysis of Hitchcock's hidden and conventional cuts in Rope, see David Bordwell's text "Poetics of Cinema", 2008).
Andy Warhol and collaborating avant-garde filmmaker, Jonas Mekas, shot the 485-minute-long experimental film, Empire (1964), on 10 rolls of film using an Auricon camera via 16mm film which allowed longer takes than its 35 mm counterpart. "The camera took a 1,200ft roll of film that would shoot for roughly 33 minutes."
The length of a take was originally limited to how much film a camera could hold, but the advent of digital video has considerably lengthened the maximum length of a take. A handful of theatrically released feature films, such as Timecode, Russian Ark, PVC-1 and La casa muda are filmed in one single take; others are composed entirely from a series of long takes, while many more may be well known for one or two specific long takes within otherwise more conventionally edited films. In 2012, art collective The Hut Project produced "The Look of Performance", a digital film shot in a single 360º take lasting 3 hours, 33 minutes and 8 seconds. The film was shot at 50 frames per second, meaning the final exhibited work lasts 7 hours, 6 minutes and 17 seconds.
The long take is rarely used in television, because of its complexity and high mastery required. TV series such as police procedural The Bill used it in their first decade to achieve a documentary style effect but this soon became onerous. One other exception is The X-Files episode Triangle (season 6, episode 3), directed (and written) by the series creator Chris Carter. The 44 minutes of episode are filmed in four 11 minute-long takes chained, as if the whole episode was filmed in one single shot.
A sequence shot involves both a long take and sophisticated camera movement; it is sometimes called by the French term plan-séquence. The use of the sequence shot allows for realistic and dramatically significant background and middle ground activity. Actors range about the set transacting their business while the camera shifts focus from one plane of depth to another and back again. Significant off-frame action is often followed with a moving camera, characteristically through a series of pans within a single continuous shot. An example of this is the first scene in the jury room of 12 Angry Men, where the jurors are getting settled into the room.
Another notable example occurs near the beginning of Antonioni's The Passenger, when Jack Nicholson exchanges passport photos while we hear a tape recording of an earlier conversation with a now dead man, and then the camera pans (no cut) to that earlier scene.
Films can be quantitatively analyzed using the "ASL" (average shot length), a statistical measurement which divides the total length of the film by the number of shots. For example, Béla Tarr's film Werckmeister Harmonies is 149 minutes, and made up of 39 shots. Thus its ASL is 229.2 seconds.
The ASL is a relatively recent metric, devised by film scholar Barry Salt in the 1970s as a method of statistically analyzing the editorial patterns both within films and across groupings of them. Noted practitioners of ASL studies include David Bordwell and Yuri Tsivian. Tsivian used the ASL as a tool for analysis of D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (ASL 5.9 seconds) in a 2005 article. Tsivian helped launch a website called Cinemetrics, where visitors can measure, record, and read ASL statistics.