What is the shot anymore?
RHETORICAL FRAMES, RHETORICAL SHOTS: Separating Space from Duration
Cinema has really stuck us with some tropes that no longer function. Teaching college students Intro to Film Production, at the beginning of the first quarter I have to define ‘jump cuts’, which means I have to define ‘shot’. I usually come up with something strangely technical and formal for such an intuitive temporal object. Something like: “The Shot, like its namesake of the gun, refers to a single pulling of the trigger… a single continuous series of frames separated only by 24th of a second of real time.” The first part sounds good– for me it evokes those Bond-gun like Super-8 cameras, where you would hold down the spring-loaded trigger, committing film (and therefore real money) second by second to what was in front of the camera. “Shooting it”… it really felt it. Much more gun-like and less surveillance than the video camera which feels more like a hose that you try to spray over everything like fertilizer or insecticide hoping for absolute ‘coverage’.
Even in film, the logical underpinnings of the shot were questionable. Shots popped in to existence either with the mechanical triggering of a set of shutters by horses’ hooves, or with the skilled regular hand-cranking of the early camera man. I think the latter. Muybridge made more of a bear-trap for time, using devices of thread and snapping boxes. It was only after having seen motion reproduced that the cameraman, and therefore The Shot, could exist. That strange process of imagining an absent (not yet found) representation while faced with its real referent… An imagination that television successfully mechanized, so now not just professional cameramen, but everyone has the experience of watching a live video mediation of an object in their video camera or cellphone screens… watching, waiting, and then committing to a recording… a ‘shot’— if you can call it that now. More like a video recording of a live mediation than a gun shot.