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Slow Motion on a Budget

Sam Morrill
December 16, 2010 by Sam Morrill Staff

For a while, achieving quality slow motion video was a real challenge for videomakers on a budget. Often, the only option was to slow down your footage in post-production, which resulted in an effect that left much to be desired. Fortunately, in recent years more consumer and pro-sumer cameras have begun to incorporate 60p video, which can be played back at 24, 25 or 30 frames per second (fps) to achieve true slow motion.

As awesome and welcome as this development is, it is still somewhat limiting for anyone who'd like to take their slow motion to the next level and slow it down even more. Other than buying a Phantom, which retails for anywhere between $50,000 and $150,000, there aren't very many affordable options to get beyond the 60p threshold. There are some tricks that yield pretty impressive results, though. Here are a few:

Using a photo-burst: With any camera that shoots multiple photos per second (the more the better) you can create an image sequence in After Effects with those photos and then allow After Effects to interpolate the frames between each photograph. For subtle movements, this method works very well. In this tutorial, Michael DeVowe explains this method, which is remarkably straight-forward:

Twixtor: Twixtor is a plug-in for After Effects and Final Cut Pro that uses advanced techniques to take your regular footage and make it super slo-mo by interpolating the frames in between the ones that your camera shot. This is essentially the same method that any editing software uses when you slow down your footage by a given percentage, except Twixtor does it better and also offers some advanced features to make your video look extra spiffy. RE:Vision Effects, which makes the Twixtor plug-in, has some helpful tutorials on their site, which you can find here. And make sure you check out Oton Bačar's video '7D 1000 fps', which is one of the most popular Vimeo videos to use Twixtor to date:

It's worth noting on the lower camera price-point range that Casio makes a series of cameras under the name Exilim that are capable of shooting from 40fps all the way up to 1,000 fps. While able to shoot at these extreme frame rates, the video resolutions at these high frame rates are quite low, resulting in image sizes far below HD in dimensions, such as 224x64 and 224x168.

Or you can just fake it entirely: By putting the camera on a tripod, having your subjects move really slowly and slowing down the video a bit in post, you can create surprisingly convincing fake slow-motion as evidenced by this video by Michael Bennett:

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Can't believe how much technology has changed in 4 years now you can get a 4K 60fps camera (the GH4) for less than $2000 :).

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