So there’s this event in many athletics meetings called the long jump. Its supposed purpose is to find out just how far a man (or woman) can jump, but despite the fact that it could very easily measure such a thing, it doesn’t.
That’s because the jumper has to take off from behind a white line that’s 20cm wide, and if the line is transgressed the jump is considered foul and not counted. So long jumping involves another very particular skill that can only succeed in reducing the length of a jump: the concentration required followed by the modification of the jump itself must always mean that the jump is compromised to some degree. Then there’s the fact that the jump is not measured from where the jumper takes off, but the foremost edge of the white area, so each jump ought to include the distance between the jumper’s take-off and the edge of the line, but it doesn’t.
Therefore, long jumping, which could measure the longest jump simply by placing a tape measure between take off and landing, wherever those two points might occur, doesn’t do that, and therefore doesn’t really measure man’s ability to jump as far as he can.
I was reminded of this the other day when watching an episode of Game of Thrones (if you’re interested it’s really very good). The timer showed that it would last 57:34, whereas the previous episode was 55:22, so although it comes in around an hour there is obviously no pressure to conform to the more exact timelengths of network TV (the show is made by US cable channel HBO). I would suggest that this can only improve the show, allowing it to end at its best point, rather than dragging on a bit longer or, more likely, getting cutting short, providing a less good result.
Which brings us to ads. How many times have you wished your ad was a 32.12″? Or a 68″? Well, tough shit, ‘cos (online aside), if its timelength doesn’t end in none-point-something seconds, you’re going to have to go back and make it worse. That’s right: you came up with a great idea, got it through a client/CD/cost controller, got just the right director on just the right day etc. only to come up against some arbitrary chronological imposition that stops it just short of greatness.
I’m not suggesting that it would be easy for TV companies to incorporate more haphazard timelengths, but fuck it, would it be that much of a stretch? You must have noticed those times when the last shot of the last ad in a break stays on screen a bit longer than usual. What’s all that about? Were there a few spare seconds knocking about? Couldn’t we be allowed to put them to good use?
The shaving of a few frames here or there may not seem like that big a deal, but it’s an imposition all of us could do without.*
*I don’t really want TV channels to allow more unusual timelengths. 99% of ads are so shit that a minor change in how long they last wouldn’t make a piss of difference, but, y’know, maybe we could lobby the International Olympic Committee or whatever they’re called.