kottke.org posts about slow motion
In the first of a three-part video series, Vox’s Joss Fong looks at how the technology used to film nature documentaries has changed over the past 50 years and how the producers of Planet Earth II used contemporary image stabilization techniques to make the series with a more cinematic style.
In the 1970s and ’80s, it was enough for the NHU to show people a creature they’d never seen before and provide the details in the narration. The films were illustrated zoology lectures. Since then, the producers have become sticklers for capturing specific behaviors, and in Planet Earth II, they showcase the drama of those behaviors. Each scene sets up the characters to perform something - something brave, something brutal, something bizarre. They’ve made room for our emotions; that’s what cinematic storytelling means.
And visually, the cinematic approach means the camera is often moving.
Hollywood filmmakers have kept the camera in motion for decades, but for obvious reasons, it’s much more difficult when your subject is wildlife. As we explain in the video at the top of this post, NHU producers used new stabilization tools throughout the production of Planet Earth II to move the camera alongside the animals.
The program doesn’t make you wait long to showcase this new approach. The tracking shot of a lemur jumping from tree to tree is one of the first things you see in the first episode and it put my jaw right on the floor. It’s so close and fluid, how did they do that? Going into the series, I thought it was going to be more of the same — Planet Earth but with new stories, different animals, etc. — but this is really some next-level shit. The kids were more excited after watching it than any movie they’ve seen in the past 6 months (aside from possibly Rogue One). The Blu-ray will be out at the end of March1 but there’s also a 4K “ultra HD” version that had me researching new ultra HD TVs I don’t really need.
Oh, and remember that thrilling sequence of the snakes chasing the newly hatched iguanas? Here’s a short clip on how they filmed it.
Update: The second video in the series is an ode to the BBC’s pioneering use of slow motion and time lapse photography in their nature programs.
Fong also explains one of my favorite things to come out of the first Planet Earth show, the slow motion buffer capture system used by the crew to catch great white sharks leaping out of the water.
But also, digital high-speed cameras came with a continuous recording feature. Instead of pressing a button to start recording and then pressing it again to stop, they could press the button as soon as they saw some action, and the camera would save the seconds that happened before the button was pressed. That’s how the cameraman captured this great white shark coming out of the water, not just in the air, for this sequence in the 2006 Planet Earth series.
I hope the third program is on sound, which has been bugging me while watching Planet Earth II. I could be wrong, but they seem to be using extensive foley effects for the sounds the animals make — not their cries necessarily, but the sounds they make as they move. Once you notice, it feels deceptive.
Update: The concluding video in the series shows how the filmmakers use thermal and infrared cameras to capture scenes at night.
The bit at the end about the Sony a7S is interesting — as cameras go, this one is much cheaper than the professional high-def cameras used for most of the scenes but is way better in low light.
With amazing super slow-motion footage of a match head starting to burn as a backdrop, this video explains the chemical reactions involved in lighting a match.
When the match is struck, a small amount of the red phosphorus on the striking surface is converted into white phosphorus, which then ignites. The heat from this ignites the potassium chlorate, and the match head bursts into flame. During manufacture, the match stick itself is soaked in ammonium phosphate, which prevents ‘afterglow’ once the flame has gone out, and paraffin, which ensures that it burns easily.
The Slow Mo Guys lit a bucket of kerosene on fire, surrounded it with 12 box fans, whipped the fire into a tornado, and filmed it with slow motion cameras at up to 2500 fps. I don’t know about you, but I want quit my job, say goodbye to my family, give this mesmerizing rotating fire all of my money, and follow it around the world, doing its bidding. (via colossal)
From Zerega Pasta, a video that shows, in slow motion, how farfalle (aka bow-tie pasta) is made at their factory.
Incredible combination of precision and quickness.
Slow motion video of a South Dakota lightning storm shot at 2000 fps.
I love the little tendrils “sent out” by the clouds before a big strike happens. It’s like nature is searching for the optimal path for the energy to travel and then BAM!
At 6000 fps, you can see just how much the racquet flattens a tennis ball on the serve.
If you hold a lit match an inch or two over the smoking wick of a recently extinguished candle, the candle will light again. If you record that happening with a high speed camera and then slow it way down, it gives you some clues to how that happens:
Hint: wax is a candle’s fuel and smoke is wax vapor… (via digg)
Technically, what you’re looking at here is a video shot in 4K resolution (basically 2x regular HD) and at 1000 frames/sec by a Phantom Flex 4K camera which retails for $100,000+. Skateboarders ollie. Dirt bikes spray dirt. Gymnasts contort. Make this as fullscreen as possible and just sit back and enjoy.
My favorite bits were of the gymnasts. In super slow motion, you can see how aerial flips are all about getting your head down as quickly as possible, then snapping your legs around as your head stays almost completely motionless — like a chicken’s! Mesmerizing.
From the Slow Mo Guys, a video shot at 170,000 frames/sec of a CD shattering after being spun at 23,000 RPM. Worth watching until (or skipping to) the end to see exactly how the disc fractures.
From The Nerdwriter, some of the best uses of slow motion in movies, TV, and music in 2014.
Good stuff. But they missed one. :) (via devour)
Confirmed: metal shavings flung off of drill bits in slow motion are beautiful.
You know what’s pretty? Big waves and surfing in slow motion. Take a break and relax at 1000 fps with this mesmerizing video.
The Hans Zimmer soundtrack only adds to the effect. (via ★interesting)
This starts out ordinarily, but give it some time…it gets really good around 90 seconds in. The combination of panning and slow motion creates a powerful sense of energy around almost-still imagery; it’s a trippy effect. See also James Nares’ Street. (via subtraction)
It turns out that this close-up video of slow motion skateboard tricks is all I’ve ever wanted out of life.
I had no idea that’s what they were doing down there. It’s a symphony of footwork!
Aatish Bhatia noticed a plant in his backyard whose leaves naturally repelled water. He took a sample to a friend who had access to a high-speed camera and an electron microscope to investigate what made the leaves so hydrophobic.
But how does a leaf become superhydrophobic? The trick to this, Janine explained, is that the water isn’t really sitting on the surface. A superhydrophobic surface is a little like a bed of nails. The nails touch the water, but there are gaps in between them. So there’s fewer points of contact, which means the surface can’t tug on the water as much, and so the drop stays round.
The leaf is so water repellant that drops of water bounce right off of it:
Professional dancers from the Washington Ballet show off their most difficult moves, filmed in slow motion.
No one uses slow motion more consistently than Wes Anderson; all his films except Fantastic Mr. Fox use the technique. Here are all the slow-mo scenes from his films strung together:
Vimeo user Subterminally appears to have had the worst 13 seconds of his life last week when he hit the cliff off of which he was base jumping. Subterminallyill received a “Compression Fracture of the T12 Vertebra, 5 stitches to the eye, 6 stitches to the chin, severely sprained Back, wrist and hand. multiple bruised areas,” which is not too bad considering he FELL OFF A FUCKING CLIFF.
Alternate copy for this post, “No. No, no no no no no no. No. No. No. No, no, no, no, no. No.”
(via just about everyone)
This video seems like it was made specifically for kottke.org. In the first half of it, you learn how cranberries are harvested. In the second half, there’s gorgeous HD slo-mo footage of wakeskating through a cranberry bog.
And with a Tycho soundtrack no less…it’s all too perfect. (via ★interesting)
Here’s slow motion video from Smarter Every Day of what it looks like when an AK47 is shot underwater. Not only is the slow motion footage beautiful (best shots at 2:40, 4:30, 7:20), the science behind why the bubbles do what they do is explained. Science! Previously.
Perfect for a slow Friday afternoon. Have a good weekend everyone.
A Danish TV show called Dumt & Farligt (which translates as Stupid & Dangerous) films all sorts of crazy things at 2500 frames/sec with a super HD camera. You may have seen the first video from last April…here’s a follow-up that just came out:
The highlights for me were the bottle of red wine in the microwave and the rocket-powered drying rack from the first video and the bottle of Diet Coke shot with a bullet and gas leak in a camper. The Diet Coke scene is almost cinematic, the way the bottle’s clothes are blown off and “arms” flap around as the bottle spins, wobbles, and finally falls to the ground. (via digg)
Remember the guy who rode the alleged 100-foot wave? Here’s a video of some other tow-in surfers from that same location (Nazare, Portugal) on the same day. The waves aren’t quite as big as 100 feet, but the sequence starting at 1:52, where the guy falls off his board and swims like hell to get out of the way before the whole ocean crashes down on top of him (watch the top of the wave), gives you a real sense of how insane this sport is.
Great use of high definition and slow motion. (via @alexismadrigal)
This doesn’t look so impressive in slow motion but when it switches to super slow motion around 2:00, watching the gasoline attempt to outrun the flames is really cool.
Lovely photo of a gun being fired under water.
And here’s a slow motion video of the same. Gunfire starts around 2:10.
At one trillion frames per second, you can see light move:
In this series of slow motion clips, you can see that if you hold a Slinky by one end and drop it, the bottom end doesn’t actually move until the top end catches up with it.
I’ve watched this like six times and it drops my jaw every time…the bottom of the Slinky JUST. DOES. NOT. MOVE. Here’s the scientific explanation:
The explanation that “it takes time for the bottom of the slinky to feel the change” might work ok, but it isn’t the best.
Then why doesn’t the bottom of the slinky fall as the top is let go? I think the best thing is to think of the slinky as a system. When it is let get, the center of mass certainly accelerates downward (like any falling object). However, at the same time, the slinky (spring) is compressing to its relaxed length. This means that top and bottom are accelerating towards the center of mass of the slinky at the same time the center of mass is accelerating downward.
Update: See also The Physics of a Falling Slinky. (via @jeffhellman)
I was trying to find out exactly what is happening in this video when I stumbled on the below video, and then it was off to the races. 30 minutes later, if they ever want to make a Shame-like movie about heavy tool machine porn, I’m available and sufficiently prepped. My brain about melted when I realized the drill wasn’t spinning.
The other video is 6 minutes of a blade cutting through steel with a soundtrack by the London Philharmonic, and it’s quite meditative to watch. (via @chrissandoval)
Here’s another slow motion drill with sparkles. Cripes. It might be better.
Lovely video of skateboarding tricks in super slow motion. It was filmed at 1000fps.
Uncommon skateboarding tricks in super slow motion. Filmed at 1,000 frames per second with a Redlake N3 high speed camera. Since skateboarding trick names are defined by common usage and these tricks are not very common, some of them don’t have well-established names. So here are my best guesses as to what they should be called:
Kyle McPherson — nollie dolphin flip (AKA nollie forward flip)
Cameron Carmichael — backside 180 casper flip (?) (or bs 180 hospital flip)
Jerrod Skorupski — nollie heelflip bs body varial
David Case - nollie 360 shuv underflip (AKA nerd flip)
David Case - frontside shuv underflip (AKA kiwi flip)
Dustin Blauvelt - hardflip pretzel
Dustin Blauvelt - Merlin twist (switch front foot impossible fs 180)
Dustin Blauvelt - nollie heelflip indy grab
Shane Anderson - early grab frontside 180 fingerflip (?)
Jovan Pierson - pressure hardflip (?)
Jovan Pierson - ?? I don’t know what this is, I just call it a Jovan flip
Erick Schaefer - backside pop shuv underflip
Tim Hamp - Nollie pressure hardflip (?)
Many of you liked the slinky on the treadmill video. This slow-motion video of Alan Rickman drinking tea isn’t quite as compelling, but it’s not bad either. Wait for the drop around 1:22 before judging.
The original video without the dramatic sound is here. (More info.)