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Blogtalk Downunder » Cinema’s minimal units

Blogtalk Downunder
   May 19-22, Sydney

Blogtalk Downunder

Cinema’s minimal units

Within cinema studies there is an immense literature that discusses what are, or are not, the minimal signifiying units in cinema. The point I wish to make here is not whether or not shots are the minimal unit, but that, much like the manner in which the nonspecialist might think of letters as being prior to words, so too we need shots to produce sequences. The point, in this essay is not to enter into the minutiae of the theoretical distinctions that inform such debate, nor to return to the issue of what terms determine differentiation in such fields, but to much more simply, and pragmatically come to terms with the idea that shots, just like words in relation to writing, enables a scalable architectonics.

Interestingly, and I’m not sure yet of the implications of this, many of the more interesting new projects being developed involving video apply at the level of the shot. For example Manovich’s softcinema project implicitly recognises the granularity of video by conceiving of a project where recombination can occur at the level of novel sequences mixed from reordered shots. Similar possibilities are being developed at, Jon Hoem’s research (Hoem, 2005), and outside of the realm of video, but certainly within the specifically cinematic, flickr’s photostream is also inventing a similar paradigm.

note: This page forms a part of a hypertext essay by Adrian Miles. The homepage for this essay is located at:
A long version of this paper (containing some but not all of the text contained in the hypertext version) is available at:

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