This morning, I watched the music video for "Say Something" by A Great Big World feat. Christina Aguilera and noticed an emphasis on emphasis. How you may ask? Through the use of both deliberate movements and the topic of this article: slow motion video. This type of video is actually a process known as high speed or high frame rate video. Standard video frame rates in the U.S. are 24 fps (23.976) for film and 30 fps (29.997) for television. This translates to a rounded up 24 or 30 frames (still images) for every second which is why you will see FPS appearing after the the frame rate number. High speed video frame rates can range from 60 fps all the way up to 2550 for the right price (Phantom Flex capable of 2550 at 1080p at a price of up to $150,000)
How does high speed video translate to slow motion you may ask? Well since video needs to be at one of the mentioned frame rates, high speed motion must be slowed down to conform. Once the video has conformed to the slower frame rate, we are left with additional frames of the action that was captured and so our converted video is longer or slower than how the action would appear in real time.
Now, why use this technique other than the fact that it is a spectacle? Well that is certainly a reason but there is more to it than that. Slow motion is used to represent focus and to provide an emphasis on what we see on the screen. Slow motion presents us with a microscope of the movement we see. It gives our brains time to analyze and absorb since we are seeing it in slower than real time and it appears smooth and clear where real time motion is rather blurry to our eyes. Example: wave your hand in front of your face. The lines and joints in your hand disappear and what we are left with is shape and color unless we move very slowly.
In TV and Cinema, slow motion is used to show importance and strength of a character to the audience and in the fictional world of the story. When the technique is used, action appears more delibrate and epic. For instance, in the music video I mentioned earlier most of the music video was in slow motion which fit the tone of the song: desperation. Having lyrics such as "Say something, I'm giving up on you" speak a sense of hopelessness and a feeling of "not getting anywhere." This mix of a slow song, the forementioned lyrics, and slow deliberate motion captived me. Captivation is the main reason to use slow motion and using it sparingly is the key to the most captivation.
The next time you see slow motion used, think about the meaning behind it, how is it affecting you subconsciously, and is it the best technique that could have been used. Share some of the most memorable examples of slow motion in the comments, I would love to hear them!