Slow motion segments in a film production can be absolutely spectacular when used at the correct time, and it’s great for really drawing attention to particular scenes that you want your audience to remember.

When To Use Slow Motion

You have to plan ahead if you want to get the most out of slow motion and to do that, you want to analyze how it fits into your overall narrative, action, script and plot. The audience are always amazed to see things they would not normally perceive with their own eyes. Depending on your intention when using slow motion, careful planning, good scripting, correct equipment, and relevant software skills will ensure that you get your visual point across the way you intended. For example, the movie hero that’s avenging the death of his friend looks awesome when he is running away from an exploding building full of bad guys. But, it looks even better when he’s running in slow motion.

Always be careful with what sequence is going to be in slow motion. Having an entire car chase in slow motion doesn’t fit or look right. The slow motion scene needs to have a purpose so that the audience can connect with it.

What Is The Science Behind Slow Motion Filming Both Today And In The Past?

Slow motion has its origin in overcranking where in the early days, camera operators literally cranked the film reel faster when shooting a scene. By cranking the reel faster, the films projected more slowly. Slow motion captures a lot of pictures very fast – at least 120 images or more per second. When played back, the film is viewed at a friendly rate of 24-30 frames a second. While digital video has struggled in capturing the high frame rates necessary for true slow motion, many new cameras work just like overcranking, shooting hundreds sometimes thousands per second.

What Extra Requirements Are Needed On Set For Slow Motion?

Slow motion can be absolutely amazing to view, but there’s a lot more to shooting it than just setting a higher frame rate. In order to capture perfect slow motion film, the following requirements should be taken into account:

Make Sure You Have Lots Of Light: When you are filming slow motion, you are taking pictures quickly. That means that light has less time to create an image in your camera so you need to ensure that you shoot in plenty of light, or you will get dark and unusable video. Director of Photography Matthew J. Santo explained to us more in detail that “you need more light because each frame is exposed for a shorter period of time.  The equivilent in still photography is using a very high shutter speed.  Each frame goes from having 1/48th of a second exposure to light to less than a thousandth of a second of light.”

Use The Correct Camera: Slow motion doesn’t work well on camera systems not designed for it in the first place. If your camera only shoots 24 or 30 frames per second of video, your slow motion would need to be produced via editing software and there are many times that this will not work. Slow motion is about capturing things you normally can’t see: The flapping of a birds wings, the popping of a water balloon on someone’s body, the expressions of joy or pain on a person’s face. These are things we truly see when slow motion is used. DP Matt Santo notes: “If the purpose of using slow motion is to accentuate detail, it is usually valuable to use a camera that maintains resolution to help illustrate those details clearly. “

Remember Slow Motion Side Effects: One of the downsides to shooting slow motion is that you will end up with more footage than you need. Six seconds of shooting produces one minute of video at 300fps and two minutes at 600fps, so try to only shoot what you need.  So therefore make sure to have plenty of digital space available: Shooting slow motion can eat up a lot of digital storage space.

Hire a Digital Imaging Technician: Their role is to ensure the quality and integrity of the recorded signal. A knowledgeable DIT can work closely with the Cinematographer and post production colorist in creating a custom look for the production. A DIT can get inside the camera and adjust things that are normally left untouched to force the camera to respond to light in a unique way and create the color you want. DP Matt Santo stressed to us that “This is the most important point I would want to express to people if I could… a good DIT will be a creative partner for your DP and your colorist… and if don’t plan on having your DP involved in post, then a DIT will be the best way to bridge the gap between production and post production.   Furthermore, with today’s cameras being more computer than black box, they act as the IT department for your set… which can be critical in saving time with the camera and the in the editing room.”