Four Seconds

The pause between songs on a record album or CD is usually four or five seconds. I don’t know how this was determined back in the early days of long playing records, but it is just enough time to mentally take a deep breath before the next track begins. I’ve found the same is true for shows of short films.

Maybe I’m more sensitive to this because I’m on the storytelling journey with the film, musically. And if I need to plunge into the next tale right after that “…and they all lived happily ever after. The end…” moment, it’s hard to shift gears. I have to assume the same goes for the audience.

A pause, a really short one, is a nice thing, aesthetically for the journey the audience is on.

I have learned, though, the length of the pause can’t always be regulated in the booth when motion picture elements are shown. Which is ironic, considering that a reel changeover can be timed precisely so as to appear seamless. But if you’re not doing a straight changeover, then one projector needs to be shut off, then next one walked to, and then set in motion and its douser opened at just the right moment after the countdown leader ends.

With digital projection, though, I’ve found that I can request the pause and because we’re talking about digital files, a “spacer” of a specific length can usually be inserted between subjects. I try to remember to request this in advance of the show. I’ve learned that showing up at half-hour and saying “oh, I was wondering, could you — ?” isn’t the best way to do a booth ask.

What I’ve found to be the ideal length of a pause can’t always be managed anyway unless whoever’s operating can hear the audience. Here’s what I’ve found that feels just right to me: film one ends, audience applauds and I finish, applause begins to die down, I start up again to play the audience into the film two, and film two’s first title card hits the screen.

But four or five seconds between films is about right. Just like on an LP.

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