Show Don't Tell & High Speed Slow Motion

In this post I'll be going through my process of creating the Falcon Music Fest T.V. commercial.  This was the first big commercial spot I’ve done, and I learned a lot through making it.  The goal of the advertisement was to, in the client's words, “Make people wish they were us”, or in humbler terms, make the festival so appealing that nobody in their right mind could miss it.

This is what I came up with:

            As I was commissioned to write, direct, and edit the spot, the client informed me that I would have complete creative freedom- the dream of every artist.  I immediately began developing ideas to convey the importance of this concert.  I came up with the idea of showing a montage of people enjoying themselves at the event- a jumping crowd, a musician performing, a DJ playing. 

I decided to stick with the tried but true method of storytelling- show don’t tell.  I knew that if I were watching a commercial featuring a talking head telling me how great the event was going to be, I wouldn’t be at all interested.  Would there be any reason for me to trust such a stranger talking about this event?  No.  Instead I decided to give people a taste of the concert experience.  This is because it is much more difficult to tell a lie to the eyes than it is to the ears.  Speech is likely the most common method through which lies are delivered.  It is easy to tell someone a lie, but as they say “seeing is believing”.  It is very hard to argue with your sight.

In creating the commercial, I used a very stylistic approach.  I took advantage of the concert hall’s bright and saturated lights.  The other biggest step I took stylistically was the use of slo-mo.  Slow motion is an amazing tool that can give great significance to even the simplest of actions.  Besides the obvious visual stimulation, the slow motion allowed the audience to pause for a moment to explore the concert on their own time.  I didn’t want the audience to feel rushed through just a quick montage.  I wanted to give them time to taste and see the vibe captured through these images.

Because I have received a fair amount of questions about it, I’ll go into some detail about the production side of this slow motion effect.  We shot this commercial entirely on the Canon 60D with an array of different lenses.  Before this commercial I had never done anything quite this slow, so to prepare for the shoot I did a fair amount of testing with the slow motion effect and this is what I learned:

1.)  Shoot in a high frame rate.

I shot this effect at 60fps, but if you have something higher, use it.  This is essential in getting the super slow motion effect.  Slower frame rates like 30p and 24p might have some potential, but the higher frame rate is really crucial to pulling of the effect.

2.)  Set your shutter speed very high.

Shooting with a high shutter speed will help to minimize motion blur, which can ruin the effect.  Play around with your shutter speed depending on what lighting is available, but try to get it up to at least 500.

3.)  Shoot simple subjects.

Highly contrasted detail is this effect’s worst enemy.  I actually ran into some trouble with this myself, mainly with the detail in the guitar strings.  If you have something with a lot of detail try to set it against a simple background or use a hair light to separate the subject.

After shooting the commercial, I took my footage into Adobe After Effects CS6 to add the slow motion effect.  I turned motion blur off and used the new time warp feature to slow down the footage to my desired speed.  Because I did the initial testing, most of the footage came out looking great.  To anyone trying this effect for the first time, I can’t stress enough how important testing is.  You can read about the effect as much as you’d like but when it comes down to it, you will learn the most through trial and error.  Research is great to accompany you, but I strongly suggest doing testing as well.

I’m very happy with the outcome of this commercial.  I learned a lot and I had a blast making it.  Let me know what you think about the commercial and if you have ever done the super slow motion effect before, comment below with a link.

The motive behind this Blog

With the current state of our society and cyber-culture, the conventions of yesterday are being flipped on their heads.  Like Dylan said, “The times they are a changing”.   To some this change induces a state of panic, while to others, a bright new future.  I personally choose to subscribe to the latter of those two reactions.  I choose to embrace this outlook for many reasons, but the most prevalent being that I gladly welcome the unknown.  Although in recent years it has been more rapid, change has been occurring since the dawn of time and has guided us to where we are today.

This blog will chronicle my own journey through the unknown as well as my discoveries along the way.  I would like others to learn from my success, failures, and observations.  Here goes nothing…


Connor Coleman