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Video Production: Getting a Great Slow Motion Shot

This slow motion shot of a flying bird was taken with a special camera.  Read on to find out more.

Slow motions shots can grab a viewers attention in a way standard video can not.  Slow motion is a great effect that can be used creatively in multiple ways.

Getting a good slow motion shot takes fairly sophisticated equipment.  You can NOT get a good slow motion shot using a standard, low-cost camcorder.  Here is why.

Standard video records at 30 frames per second.  Standard motion picture film records at 24 frames per second.  Virtually everything that moves  goes too fast for that.  If you look at standard 30-frame-per-second video of a rapidly moving object, each individual frame will look blurry.  There is no way to get rid of this blur once it has been recorded.

To get great slow motion video, you have to record at a frame rate faster than 30-frames-per-second. Inexpensive camcorders will not do this, more expensive ones will.

The highest quality way to get great slow mo is to use a film camera with a variable shutter.  To get exceptionally good slow-mo, recording at 1,000 frames a second or even higher is recommended.  How high can you go?

The high-speed photography pioneer Harold Edgerton of M.I.T. shot his famous pictures at speeds of up to several million frames a second.  He used the highest speeds for his atomic bomb shots.  Other shots like the bullet-through-the-apple below were done at a mere hundred thousand frames per second.

You can get quality slow-mo without going to the extremes of Harold Edgerton.  If you record at 1,000 frames a second and then play it back at the standard film rate of 24 frames per second, or video rate of 30fps, you get a good looking slow motion effect.   Each frame is crisp and clean with no blur.  (Unless your subject is moving AWFULLY FAST.)

Most people do not realize that video cameras have a shutter.  This is because only expensive video cameras allow you any control over the shutter.  Less expensive cameras have shutters, but since you can not control them, they are not even mentioned in the owner’s manual.

Expensive video cameras do allow you to control the shutter.  (The shutter speed and the frame rate are NOT the exact same thing, but I don’t want to get overly technical in this post.)

On all the expensive video cameras I have ever used, controlling the shutter was a simple matter of flipping a switch.   These cameras allowed you to set the shutter at any one of about ten different speeds, up to a pace of 5,000 times per second.   These were $10,000 dollar or higher video cameras.

As technology improves, this feature is coming to less expensive cameras.  The Casio Ex-F1, retailing for just $1,000, was touted as the “world’s fastest camera.”  It was actually a digital still camera that could shoot video.

For still shots, the EX-F1 records 60 frames a second. When shooting video, you can set it to 300, 600, or 1,200 frames per second.  For the price, this is a remarkable achievement.  You will get smooth slow-mo video of most moving objects at these speeds.

The bird video above was taken with a EX-F1.

The EX-F1 came out about a year ago.  Now, things have improved even more and Casio has brought out some new models that are cheaper and smaller.

There is the EX-FC1000 (5x zoom, 2.7-inch screen with image stabilization) and the EX-FS10 (3x zoom, 2.5-inch screen).

The drawbacks of these cameras are that you have to have TONS of light at these high shutter speeds.  Plus, the frame sizes they produce at these speeds is small.  These are the trade-offs.

All in all, these cameras are remarkable.  You can buy one from B&H Photo.

Thanks for reading video production tips

Lorraine Grula

Internet Video Gal

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Lorraine Grula

Lorraine Grula enjoyed a fast-paced, multifaceted career in the television and video business, producing, shooting, writing, and editing documentary-style videos in both news and corporate settings. Later, she got to teach media and video production in two high schools, which then morphed into instructional design and corporate training. Lorraine is now dedicated to sharing her vast knowledge with others who wish to learn the art of video making, with an emphasis on storytelling and creating professional-quality videos for the internet as simply, yet creatively as possible.

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  1. Thanks for the articles, have book marked them and will definitely be taking forward some of their advice. Thanks again! I’ll be back for more tips next week!

  2. Hi David.
    Glad to hear it! Thanks for the compliment.

    Please be sure to check out all the previous posts too. The easiest way to do that is to go to the site map and you can see the name of every post. I try to keep the titles very descriptive so you can judge fairly well whether it is something you want to read or not.

    I have over 275 video production tips articles on this blog. If you read them all it would be like an entire course in video production, but of course this is all free!

    So check out all the back articles, there is a wealth of information on how to make your own videos here on this blog.

    Lorraine Grula

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