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Cinematic Time

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Cinematic time is the term used to refer to time as it is depicted on-screen in an audio-visual work. In other words, it is the time as measured by the audience of said audio-visual work.

Cinematic time generally does not equal the time passing in the story. Often, it passes at different speeds as the time in the story or completely leaves out time-frames. That is done for various reasons, such as making movements which should technically be indistinguishable to the naked eye, visible to the viewer. It could also be used to fix narrative pacing, so that very long time periods don't get extremely boring.

Although such cases exist, cinematic time can be used to determine time-frames for calculations, such as this calc, or the Pumpkin speed calc here.

However, due to the fact that cinematic time is often quite different from the actual time, the following rules should be adhered to, for uniformity and to prevent misuse of cinematic time-based calcs.


  1. If differing time values can be obtained via the static (non audio-visual) source material, the source material time-frame will be given preference.
  2. Time-frames determined via author statements, time-measuring devices of any form in the story work, or calculations based on the in-verse depiction of the events will take precedence over cinematic time.
  3. The speed of movement of a character as depicted on-screen is given priority over the speed aforementioned character likely moves off-screen. In other words, if a character is depicted to move at a certain speed as seen by the viewer, and during a cut seems to have movement with a different speed, then the on-screen speed will take precedence. It should be noted that times obtained via rule 1 or 2 will have higher preference than rule 3. Also, please note that if drastically differing, bordering on outlandish, speeds are obtained via a particular depiction, it will be considered an outlier.
  4. Cinematic time should not be used if the time-frame the event of interest happens in occurs during a time-frame that is suggested to be sped up in any way and a cut is involved.
  5. If a movement is suggested to be sped up or slowed down by an unknown degree, cinematic time should not be used.
  6. Cinematic time should never be used to argue that a character is faster or slower compared to speed statistics based on other feats.
  7. One should not assume that cinematic time is consistent in any way. Hence, calculating how much slower/faster cinematic time is compared to the actual time in the work and applying that to ratio to another instance is not a legitimate method to determine the actual time-frames in a piece of work.
  8. If during a cut a change of scenery occurred and the character wasn't depicted travelling before, or if obviously a part of the travel between two points is left out, it should not be assumed that the time was depicted linearly, hence cinematic time shouldn't be used in such cases.

Sample scenarios

A character, displayed talking to another character on a beach, after a cut, is back on the ship, thinking about the prior conversation.

Here rule #8 would apply, since the character wasn't travelling in the scene before. The event depicted is a scene change and is not supposed to correctly show the time-frame between the scenes. The travel was simply skipped, because it isn't interesting to the viewer.

A character, capable of dodging beams of light, is seen in a fight scene. The viewer is able to see him throwing punches and dodging attacks.

The fighting scenes here are slowed down so that the viewer can see them. A battle at light speed wouldn't be visible to the viewer (thereby defeating the base premise of an audio-visual depiction -_-). In such a case, it should be assumed that the battle is slowed down at all times, hence it cannot be reasoned that the character is slower than his previously depicted speeds on this basis, aka, rule #6.

In a scene, a beam of light is depicted travelling 3 meters in 5 seconds. Right after the beam leaves the field-of-view, we see a character moving 2 meters in 5 seconds.

Even if the events are right after each other, cinematic time doesn't have to necessarily be consistent in any manner. In the scene described, the movement of the character might not be depicted with the same perception time as the light before. In this case, rule #7 would come into effect.

A character states that a bomb will go off in 10 minutes. 4 minutes after that statement, the bomb explodes. During these 4 minutes, a character was seen running 100 meters in 4 seconds of cinematic time, while a cut was involved.

Since the actually represented time is 4 minutes, but in the story 10 minutes should have passed, the depiction of those time-frames must have masked the remaining 6 minutes. Because of this, any cuts are under a general suspicion of hiding time-frames. So the 100 meters in 4 seconds feat should be inapplicable for a calc's time-frame, because the cut involved might mask a time-frame. Rule #4 can be applied in this scenario.

A character seemingly moves with 10 m/s. After a cut to another person, which was 4 seconds long, the character moved 1000 meters.

In this case, the character is depicted to move slowly on-screen and very quickly off-screen. However, we don't actually know what happened off-screen, and whether or not an increased amount of time passed, hence the speed he depicted on-screen is to be considered. In this example, rule #3 is to be utilized.


Posting calcs in violation of the policy regarding cinematic time-frames causes a lot of work for the staff. It is our kind request that you understand the parameters of validity, try to abide by them, and post only calcs which are not in violation of the aforementioned rules.

Also note that repetitive violation of the rules might lead to a block.

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