12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage

Slow motion footage is a timeless and evocative trend. Get started shooting your own slow motion stock footage with these twelve expert tips.

From the iPhone 11’s new Slofies (slow motion selfies) to the millions of videos tagged #slowmotion on Instagram, it’s clear that “slow-mo” is having a moment—and stock footage contributors are taking note.

“Slow-motion clips and stock footage are a match made in heaven,” Dražen Štader, the director and producer of Produkcija Studio, tells us. “Trends come and go, but I think the demand for great-looking slow-motion clips will always be present. The reason is simple. When done right, slow-motion clips are packed with movie magic. Often, they convey a sense of emotion, and they fit perfectly into that fifteen to thirty-second time slot.”

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Convey EmotionsVideo by Produkcija Studio

We interviewed six talented cinematographers from across the globe and asked them about the basics of slow-motion shooting. From common mistakes to avoid to creative tricks to try, here are their best tips for getting started.

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Getting StartedVideo by Suzi Media Production

1. Understand why you’re shooting in slow motion.

“All beginning videographers should ask themselves, ‘Why am I using slow motion?’” Andrey Suzi of Suzi Media Production tells us. In general, he has two main reasons for shooting in slow motion.

The first is to convey feelings and emotions: Suzi says, “It seems to us that the most emotional moments of our lives last longer than they really are.” The second is to show details that we’d miss otherwise because they happen too quickly: “the flight of a butterfly, the sparks from a fire, falling drops of rain, the movement of an athlete’s muscles.”

If you don’t know why you want to shoot a clip in slow motion, spend some time working it out before you head into the studio.

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Show Fine Details Video by Produkcija Studio

2. Provide ample lighting…

“The most common mistake is under-planning the amount of light that you are going to need when shooting super slow-motion shots in the studio,” Štader explains. “Once you pass the mark of 300 fps, the amount and the quality of light is the most crucial element that determines the technical quality of your shot. Make sure to use high quality, high CRI, and non-flickering light sources in order to make magic happen.”

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Provide Ample Lighting Video by Alexander Kirch

3. … and choose the right light source.

Even if you have enough light for a proper exposure, you can run into trouble if that light flickers while you’re on set. Flickering lights might be passable in other situations, but they can easily ruin a slow-motion clip.

“I like to use LED lights because they are not connected to the power frequency of your wall socket,” Alexander Kirch explains. “But even LEDs flicker, so you have to test this with some trial clips before you get started.”

A good way to practice is to start by shooting outside on a sunny day, when light is plentiful and consistent. “If you are a slow-motion newbie, I recommend taking your setup outside and using available daylight,” Kirch says.

If you’re working with tungsten lights, make sure to select something over 2k (or use a generator) to avoid flicker.

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Source Lighting Carefully Video by Suzi Media Production

4. Watch your shutter speed.

“Don’t forget: when you change the frame rate in your camera, you must also change the shutter speed,” Suzi advises. “I myself forget to do this regularly. And then, I hate myself for it. If the shooting frequency is 60 fps, then the shutter speed must be at least 60. If the shooting frequency is 120 fps, the shutter speed is at least 120, etc.”

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Watch Your Shutter SpeedVideo by railway fx

If you’re following the “180-degree shutter rule,” a common rule of thumb in cinematography, your shutter speed should be double your frame rate. “For example, if you’re shooting 100 fps footage, the perfect shutter speed is 1/200s,” Andrew Voskresensky of railway fx tells us. “Some noise may appear, but don’t hesitate to use a denoiser in post-production. The Reduce Noise plug-in by Neat Video provides nice, clean results.”

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Reduce Noise Video by ProCinemaStock

5. Choose the right frame rate based on your subject.

Unfortunately, it’s not enough to select a frame rate that looks cool and then apply it to every shoot; instead, remember to tailor your frame rate to each subject individually. “It’s a mistake to think that the higher your frame rate is, the better your footage will be,” Ivan Zastavetsky from ProCinemaStock tells us.

“The shorter the movement or action is in real life, the more you have to slow it down. So slow-motion x2 (50-60 fps) is enough to capture people’s emotions or dance moves, but fast cars or a ball soaring through a football field will require at least x4 slowdown (100-120 fps) for the result to be spectacular.”

In a similar vein, not every shutter speed works for every subject. Kirch explains, “The higher the speed, the ‘crisper’ your footage will be. That’s cool for a drop of water, but bad for car shots where you need some motion blur.”

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Choose Your Frame Rate Carefully Video by railway fx

6. Use a tripod.

“Use sturdy tripods and try to move very gently around the spot where the camera is positioned,” Voskresensky advises. “Even short, small vibrations transform into long and irritating wobbling when you’re working in slow motion.” You might be able to get away without using one for shorter clips, but it’s always a good idea to have one on hand if you’re shooting longer videos.

7. Focus manually.

“Avoid the auto-focus feature while shooting,” Voskresensky warns. “When you’re shooting a slow-motion recording, autofocusing may result in unwanted lens pulsing—meaning the video goes in and out of focus.”

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Focus Manually Video by Felix Mizioznikov

8. Beware of lens flare.

“I shoot a lot of ultra-wide footage, but I have to be careful with glare from the sun and light sources when shooting at night,” Felix Mizioznikov explains. “When shooting in the day, avoid shooting into the sun. If you are shooting at night, go with a lens that’s flat to avoid lens flare from passing cars and street lights.”

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Beware of Lens Flare Video by Suzi Media Production

9. Use a light touch.

“Do not use slow motion where it’s not needed,” Suzi warns. “Never use an effect for the sake of it. Ideal slow-motion footage incorporates slow motion in a way that’s not noticeable or conspicuous to the viewer. It must work at a subconscious level.” When shooting in slow motion, don’t go overboard. A little bit goes a long way towards getting that lovely cinematic feel.

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Use a Light Touch Video by railway fx

10. Be smart about post-processing.

Fair warning: you can slow down existing footage during post-processing, but if you don’t do it properly, it won’t look right.

“It is possible to slow down video even more and get stunning 0.2x slowdown using Pixel Motion frame blending in Adobe After Effects/Premiere or a third-party plug-in like Twixtor by RE:Vision Effects,” Voskresensky explains. “But keep in mind that for better-looking results during post-production slow down, you should shot with even an even faster shutter speed than usual. For example, at 60 fps, your shutter speed will become 1/240s.”

11. Shoot with what you have.

You don’t have to wait for the latest and most expensive gear to shoot slow-motion footage. “Don’t get too caught up with the equipment you are using or not using, and don’t worry about what everyone else has,” Mizioznikov says.

“If you have a camera or phone that can shoot 1080p at 60 frames per second or higher, you have what it takes to create amazing slow-motion footage. I have way too much equipment and only find myself using a few key items on a daily basis.”

12 Simple Tips for Shooting Slow Motion Stock Footage — Shoot With What You Have Video by Alexander Kirch

12. Remember the buyer.

If you’re shooting for stock, you have to think like an artist as well as an image buyer. Your footage has to be beautiful, and it also has to have practical uses in the real world. “I’ve noticed that the demand for backgrounds seems to be driving sales these days, so keep that in mind when you’re planning your shoot,” Kirch advises.

“Buyers need backgrounds with copy space, and slow-motion elements are needed for all kinds of screen animations and product presentations. Shoot stuff you like, but remember to ask yourself why someone would buy your footage.”

Top image by Alexander Kirch.

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