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Tag: slow motion video

Three Ways to Massively Improve the Quality of Your Family Video Shots

I’ve got three big tips that will help jump-start your action videos of your family members...

Let’s face it. Few of us would mind if Steven Spielberg showed up with his camera crew to immortalize our next family event. All of that talent poured into the visual capture would undoubtedly generate amazing imagery. (I don’t care how disruptive a large film crew would be!)

Unfortunately, I know that scenario is also a fantasy. But instead of dreaming about how you might improve your home videos, I’ve got three ways to upgrade your video talents to the next level…

Steady Does It

Shaky jumps and bumps created by an unsteady hand are sure signs of amateur video. The good news is technology is making it easier for you these days to create steadier shots, especially when covering action.

Digital stabilization is now common in consumer camera tech, but a real game changer is consumer-grade ‘gimbals.’ These are 3-axis stabilized handheld devices.

You can mount your smartphones to these stabilizers to create silky-smooth cinematic videos.

DJI makes the Osmo Mobile 3.
$119.00 on Amazon Prime

Or you can go with the DJI Osmo Pocket, which is a tiny, all-in-one camera/gimbal that can create amazingly smooth action from the palm of your hand.
$349 on Amazon Prime

I use the Osmo Pocket, and it maximizes many video opportunities to keep up with my active nine-year-old son.

Slow It Down

I know I’ve recently taken a deep dive into the value of shooting in slow motion, but I think the point bears repeating.

When not overused, slow motion video can really add emotional impact to your video storytelling. It can also help you extend a significant visual moment which goes by too quickly. 

All you need to do is shoot at a higher frame-rate. Today’s smartphones are entirely capable to handle this trick with a tap of a setting. 

If you’re not already a slow-motion believer, just give it a try. You’ll see what I mean.

Let There Be Light!

Sure, you can buy expensive gear to help shoot in low light, and the results can be strikingly beautiful. But why confront this difficult challenge if you don’t have to? 

Instead, simply look for every opportunity to record in good light. Either take advantage of the outdoors or a well-lit room. Simply avoid those infamous backlight problems that come from bright windows or the sun in the background. 

And always remember to keep the brightest light in front of your subject!

Show and Tell

Here’s an example of these three tips in action… I used my DJI Osmo Pocket to ‘smoothly’ document my son’s participation in a community fun run on a bright, cold weekend morning.

I recorded these clips at 60 frames per second and then slowed the motion down a bit while editing them in Final Cut Pro X on my iMac. I added in a little rhythm from Apple’s GarageBand and threw in some white flashes to finish off the sequence.

Put It All Together

Steady, slow and the use of lots of light will help you take a significant step forward as the family videographer. 

(I believe my post’s title says, “massive.” I’ll stand by that.)

If you incorporate these strategies when capturing action, you can create clips that will turn lots of heads.

All right, maybe just a few… but I expect the ones that matter to you!

Why Do We Love Slow Motion Video?

Wanting to capture a moment in slow motion is often born from our cultural fascination with the cinematic experience. Better understanding the ‘why’ will help direct your quest for more successful slow-mo shots.

Just about anyone can create slow-motion video clips these days. With a smartphone and a little help from a consumer-grade handheld gimbal or even a little digital image stabilization, it’s not that hard to generate a buttery-smooth cinematic shot… in slow motion.

And if you’re working with more advanced production gear from my world that many in corporate video production are using today, the results can be even more impressive. With a digital cinema camera, fast lens, and the right lighting, you can create amazing slow-motion shots at reasonable price points that were unimaginable five years ago.

But why am I and so many others obsessed in the quest to generate slow motion shots (for both personal and professional use)?

Learning about Slow Motion at the Movies
It’s not like viewing our reality in slow motion is natural. Sure, certain people talk about their surroundings slowing down right before an emergency. But that’s more about cognitively processing versus actually watching something move slowly.

Slow motion is essentially a special effect born out of the technology of movie making.

We only understand slow motion as part of our learned understanding of the cinematic viewing experience. We all grew up watching slow motion at the movies, on TV and now… online.

Slowing Down Sports Action
At a basic level, slow motion is a magical way to visually dissect an important moment that simply happens too quickly. It generates more time for us to actually process what’s happening.

Its use during sports TV coverage is an obvious example. That home run or touchdown is always better shot in slow motion. And the value of slow-mo in televised sports also applies when you shoot your family backyard touch-football highlight.

The Emotional Rush
But I’m often more interested in the use of slow motion as a visual tool that offers an emotional point of view. When a particular moment in a movie suddenly slows down, it often represents an emotional turn in visual storytelling.

And when that slow-motion shot is paired with a low audio rumble or ominous violin strings, experiencing that moment flicks a switch in our brains. We’ve been trained like Pavlov’s dogs to have a conditioned response… in this case, an emotional surge.

You know that feeling, right? The one that sends a tingle down your spine or involuntarily squeezes those muscles behind your ears.

In short, we feel something of a rush.

A great movie moment can easily do that to you. And slow motion is one of the ways to complete that circuit.

As a visual storyteller in my career and also at home as the self-appointed family documentarian, I’m always looking for opportunities to create this kind of moment… that same rush for my viewers.

Slow motion isn’t the only way to get it done. But when strong artistic execution is married with good slow motion and the right narrative moment, it’s undeniably a holy-grail moment for any creative.

But if you’re also a digital content creator, I’ve got a warning…

Don’t go crazy with slow-mo. Just like any creative tool, we should have a clear reason to use it and not simply treat it like some kind of cheap trick. Because that’s exactly what it would become.

Plus, pointless slow motion is just… slow.

Also, when considering using a b-roll clip as part of your editing process, don’t slow the clip down simply to extend it to ‘fit’ in your editing timeline gap. (This is possible only if your footage was originally shot at a high frame rate.)

I believe that ‘filling in the gap’ is a misuse of slow motion. It’s never the best way to intentionally use slow-mo… mostly because it’s not intentional… it’s just convenient.

Find the Meaning in your Slow Motion
Barrett Juggles in Slow Motion
Sure, having a little fun with slow motion is fine.

Barrett Walks in Slow Motion
And who isn’t flattered having a ‘hero shot’ of them captured every now and again?

Haircut in Slow Motion
But when we’re offered the opportunity to look for deeper meaning behind slow motion, that’s when it gets interesting.

Where used properly, slow motion will reveal fundamental truths that we may miss at normal speed.

Yes, it’s an entirely unnatural way to experience the world, but one that technology has successfully created for us. The great filmmakers have shown us the visual guidelines for slow motion. Now, with the democratization of slow-mo video creation, it’s up to you and me to respect and apply them.

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