There's something about slow motion
Not long ago our friends at Ames Scullin Ohare asked us to shoot a television commercial for Food Lion, one of their supermarket clients. At first glance the concept appeared to be pretty simple.... a series of actors celebrating the money they saved at Food Lion by doing an "end zone" dance in the Food Lion parking lot.
We did our first bid in 35mm but with the slow motion the budget couldn't handle the massive amount of film we were going to run through the camera. So we offered up the RED camera in High Definition. It has the ability to shoot at 120 frames per second and there would be no worrying about film.
But 120 frames per second was not "slow motion" enough.
Wait a minute... not slow enough? Now this is getting interesting. One hundred and twenty frames a second is five times slower than real life. But apparently the Agency had been seeing some scenes on You Tube at 500 frames a second... and loved it.
So the decision was made to shoot with a Phantom Gold camera. It was capable of shooting up to 1000 frames per second and was the camera used to shoot those really cool NFL spots you saw during the playoffs. You know the ones....
I had never shot with the Phantom, or seen one. We flew it in from New York along with a Digital Imaging Tech. These days you need a computer guru on every job it seems. Basically, the camera looked like a box with a lens on it. There was a viewfinder for me to look through but no button to turn it on or off. All of that was done from inside "the tent". It didn't even make any noise.
I have to admit. I was impressed. I mean, we've all seen slow motion. If you are into sports of any kind it's really nothing special. But at 500 frames a second.... it is special and everyone who walked by the monitor during playback thought so. There's just something cool about life at 500 frames per second. Expressions last longer, clothes flow better... life seems "smoother" and more refined. The whole time we were shooting I remember thinking...."this is very cool, I need to shoot something else with this". It's not often that a technical effect can actually become "creative". But in this case, the technique is cool enough to develop creative concepts around. it would make for a great fashion spot for example.
We ran some tests and I wish I had it to share. Basically we shot one of our studio guys shaking his arms and legs as fast as he possibly could. In real time, it looked like he was having a seizure. But when we played it back.... it looked like a dance. So here's the next best thing.... the clip below shows the same scene twice. Once at real speed... and then at 500 frames per second. It's about 5 minutes long because every one second is about 15 seconds of slow motion... but I think you'll enjoy it. The actress sprained her ankle badly in the first 5 seconds of this clip... you can actually see it happen if you look close... but she was a trooper and muscled through the rest of the take... but she was done after that.
Pretty cool huh. Now here's a director's cut of the spot.
Yep.... there's something about slow motion.