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The Fundamentals of Slow Motion: How It Works and How to Use It

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Slow motion is one of the most fascinating techniques in filmmaking. By slowing down time, we can see the world in a completely different way. This blog post will explore the fundamentals of slow motion and how it works. We will also take a look at the history of slow motion and some famous examples of its use.

What is slow motion, and how does it work

Slow motion is a cinematography technique in which a shot is captured and played back at a slower speed than it was recorded. This has the effect of slowing down the action, allowing the viewer to see more detail in fast movements that would normally be blurred or missed at normal speed.

It is also commonly called slow-mo, slo-mo, or “overcranking” in filmmaking. Austrian priest August Musger is credited with its invention in the early 1900s.

It is accomplished either by using a high-speed camera to capture footage at a high frame rate or by creating additional frames in post-production through the use of specialized software.

Why use slow motion?

With slow motion, directors are able to create an effect that is both visually striking and dramatically potent. On a purely aesthetic level, slow motion can add a sense of grace and beauty to a scene.

In action movies, it can heighten the suspense of a chase scene or make an explosion more impactful. But slow motion can also be used to convey emotion, as it allows viewers to linger on a character’s face and see the nuances of their expression. In comedy, it can be used for comic effect, drawing attention to the absurd. In short, slow motion is a versatile tool

How does slow motion work?

man running in slow motion

Slow motion is simply a function of capture frame rate vs playback frame rate. Whenever the capture frame rate is the same as the playback frame rate, the resulting video has a duration and speed of action that matches real life. When the capture speed is higher than the playback speed, the video will have a longer duration and a slow-motion effect to the action.

The faster the capture frames per second (FPS), the slower the action and the longer the duration of the video.

The simplest example is to imagine a 1-second scene captured by two separate cameras. The first camera has a capture frame rate of 24fps, whereas the second camera is set to 48fps. Both cameras have a playback frame rate of 24fps.

When both video clips are imported into a piece of editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro, they will each show a frame rate of 24fps. How can this be? This is because, in most cases, the capture frame rate is not stored in the file’s metadata. Most often, we only have access to the playback frame rate.

If we drag both clips into a timeline, we’ll immediately see that the 48fps clip has a 2-second duration while the 24fps clip has a duration of 1-second.

The 48fps clip has captured double the number of frames and is now twice the other clip’s run time. The action captured in the footage is played back at half the speed of the other (real-time) clip.

This effect can be extrapolated to any frame rate. For example, a capture frame rate of 120fps would be played back at a speed 5 times slower than in real-time. With a frame rate of 240fps, it would be 10 times slower, and so on and so forth.

History of slow motion in film

Since the earliest days of film, directors have been experimenting with ways to capture fast-moving action in a way that is both visually arresting and easy for audiences to follow.

One of the earliest examples can be seen in the 1907 short film, Trip to the Moon. In this film, a group of scientists travels to the moon in a rocket-powered capsule. As they explore their surroundings, they come across a group of lunar creatures who appear to be moving in slow motion. This effect was achieved by filming the action at a high frame rate and then projecting it at a lower frame rate.

Starting in the 1960s, slow motion began to be used regularly in movies. Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey featured several famous slow-motion sequences. And Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch used the technique to accentuate its bloody gunfights.

In more recent years, slow motion has become an important tool in action and comedy movies. Films such as The Matrix, 300, and The Dark Knight use slow motion to create visually stunning and dramatic scenes.

Bullet Time

The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction film that popularized the use of “bullet time” in action scenes. In bullet time, the action appears to slow down while the camera moves around the scene at a normal speed. This effect was created using a combination of high-speed photography and computer-generated imagery (CGI).

To create the bullet time sequence in The Matrix, the filmmakers used a special camera rig that consisted of 120 still cameras arranged in a circle. The cameras were triggered to take pictures at regular intervals, typically around 1/1000th of a second. These images were then combined to create a single composite image. The effect was further enhanced by CGI, which was used to add additional detail and movement.

Today, bullet time has become a staple of action movies and is often used to create dramatic scenes.


The use of slow motion in film has come a long way since the early days of cinema. Today, it is an essential tool for filmmakers looking to create visually stunning and dramatic scenes.

By slowing down the action, you can highlight key moments and create a sense of drama. In addition, slow motion can be used to create stunning visual effects. When used judiciously, slow motion can help you create videos that are both visually arresting and emotionally powerful. Of course, like all filmmaking techniques, slow motion should be used sparingly. Overusing slow motion can quickly become repetitive and boring. But when used correctly, slow motion can help you take your video production to the next level.


How can I create a slow-motion video?

You can create a slow motion video either in-camera or via software in post-production.

Commonly, camera settings will allow you to capture video at different frame rates. If you want to create a slow-motion effect, you can set your camera to capture video at a higher frame rate than normal. This will result in footage that is played back at a slower speed.

In Post-production:
There are a number of ways to create a slow-motion video in post-production. One easy way is to use a software program such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro. These programs allow you to slow down footage by adjusting the frame rate. Another option is to use a special effects plugin such as Twixtor or ReelSteady.

Which camera is best for slow motion?

The Phantom line of cameras from Vision Research is the industry standard for extreme slow-motion shots. These cameras can capture video at frame rates up to 12,000 frames per second.

However, almost any modern digital camera can be used to capture footage at a higher frame rate than normal and achieve a slow-motion effect.

What are the best settings for slow motion?

The best settings for slow motion will vary depending on the camera you are using and the shooting environment. However, a good starting point is to set your camera to capture video at double its normal frame rate. For example, if you are shooting with a 24fps camera, set it to capture video at 48fps. This will result in footage that

Why is it called Bullet Time?

The term “bullet time” was first used by the Wachowskis in the screenplay for The Matrix. In the film, bullet time is used to create an extreme slow-motion effect that makes it look as if time has slowed down so much that a bullet flying through the air can be seen with the naked eye.

Who invented slow motion in cinema?

Austrian priest August Musger is credited with its invention in 1904 via his technique of using a mirrored drum as a synchronizing mechanism. That said, in the early days of cinema, most cameras were hand-cranked, which resulted in variations in capture speed. Due to this variable capture speed, many filmmakers experimented with “overcranking” the camera (cranking faster than usual) in order to achieve a slow-motion effect.

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