Slow-mo for video stories

At Kings we did a whole batch of video stories a few years back. They were great, but we ran a bit too hard and fast at them. Too many, too quickly and it wasn’t sustainable. Note to self: don’t be a hero, be consistent.

Recently, however, we decided we miss them. They really are a great way of sharing. On a practical level, you can share in all your venues, online, in all sorts of contexts (e.g. Alpha) and at any time in the future. A bit easier than dragging the folks round with you to do it live.

Video also allows you to get your narrative crazy sharp and precise. Weed out all the unnecessary details, edit all the stutters, awkward pauses, “ums” and “ahhs” and so on. In essence, you present the most articulate and succinct narration of a story, which often makes them quite compelling.

But how to make them sustainable? We want to do them well, but not have them take forever. The solution: slow motion!

Slow-mo and not filming the interview. Both dramatically cut down the production time.

↑   Slow-mo video story: Matt & Faith. Total film and edit time: 2 days

Filming in slow motion, on a very practical level, means that all your shots last twice as long. Less clips, less editing, much quicker result. It probably cuts down the edit time by half.

Not every stylistic development is because of the art. The UK’s favourite graffiti artist Banksy chose stencil graffiti as a way of getting in and out fast, without getting caught. But it’s iconic and brilliant.

There are a couple of really nice side effects to slow-mo. Firstly, it feels like you’re slowing down time to reflect and share. Which is pretty ace because that’s actually what you’re doing: slowing down and taking time out of your crazy day to tell what God has done.

Secondly, it makes your shots look more cinematic. All your panning and tracking motion is now slower and smoother than it’s possible to film in real time.

The third effect is that slow-mo adds significance to fleeting moments. In real time, all the elements of life pass by quite quickly. When you slow them down you see the world in a different way. It’s more reflective, it helps you take it all in.

The vocal track is the result of an interview with the subject which I record on my Tascam DR-1100mk2 (with tie mic).

Tascam DR-100MKII field recorder

I ask lots of leading questions for 20-30 minutes and then edit down to the shortest possible length. When you only include the most essential details the story is usually at its most precise and compelling. The trick is not to go too far or you start losing the story itself. But we’re more prone to under edit as losing those details can be painful.

Stepping back from filming the interview itself is a compromise. There’s so much communicated through body language and facial expressions. But the time saved setting up, filming and then packing down is quite significant. Audio-only is way quicker. So a worthwhile compromise for us, and we’re still really happy with the results.

Personally I’ve found the sweet spot for slow-mo on this type of project is 50fps (and then played back at 25fps). My camera (Sony a7SII) can shoot 120fps, but it’s actually too slow, too long and drawn out. And the video quality at 50fps is much better, capturing at 50mbps rather than 16mbps.

In all this we shall tip the hat to Emmanuel Church in Brighton, and to the Filming Families course on CreativeLive. Both very much inspired this approach with their excellent content.

↑   Slow-mo video story: Steve & Lynda. Total film and edit time: 9 hours

Related posts

Don’t be a hero, be consistent
When your funny, shocking, dramatic story ruins the message

Getting into video

If you want to get into video and filming stories, definitely check out the Filming Families course on CreativeLive. A fantastic intro to videography and shooting short films (not just family videos).

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