So we know that for normal shooting and normal motion. we want to set our shutter speed to double our frame rate. But what about when we want to have a little more fun than normal motion? First, let’s look at how we can achieve freeze frames and slow motion in post production. By manipulating our shutter speed. Even if your camera doesn’t have built in slow motion ability like that found on many higher end prosumer cameras. You can still achieve decent slow motion shots by adjusting your shutter speed.

Then slowing down the footage in a non linear editing program such as Premier or final cut Pro. To do this, shoot only the particular scene to be slowed down at a very high shutter speed. Anywhere from 1/1000th on up. Whatever you’ve got, take it up as high as you can go. You might want to experiment first to see what works best for your camera in slow motion. The faster the action you want to slow down or freeze frame, the higher you want to set that shutter speed to. So kids on a merry ground, could probably be shot at a speed of 1/2000th and still look good when slowed down in post.

However, to get clean slow motion of something really fast, like a goalie stopping a flying hockey puck. You’d want to shoot at a very high shutter speed in order to actually see the puck in mid-flight. Your camera may or may not be capable of going up to high enough shutter speed to capture really fast action. One thing you have to keep in mind when trying this technique, is that a higher shutter speed by necessity will result in a much darker image than a normal shutter speed. Since you’re physically letting less light into the lens.

So you’ll need to shoot in full daylight in a very bright studio or environment. Or with the camera’s gain or ISO cranked up. And cranking up the gain or ISO of course, will result in more video noise. So it’s always best to try to keep that to a minimum when you can. Now another way you can use high shutter speed as a story telling device is to shoot your scene at a high shutter speed and not manipulate the speed of the footage and post. Just leave it just like it is, the end result will be footage that appears very surreal – or strange and disturbing.

It’s surreal because things and people that aren’t moving, will pretty much look the same as they do where they’re normally shot on video. However, anyone or anything in the frame that is moving, will appear as if it’s under a strobe light. Waving a hand in front of the lens will appear as if you’re waving four hands. In the past decade, many narrative films have employed this effect to create a feeling of surrealism or to jar the audience. Specifically, I’m thinking of the big battle scenes in Saving Private Ryan.

The zombie attack scenes in 28 Days Later. The bank robbery sequence in inside man. All of these use high shutter speeds or manipulate the shutter angle, to mess with the audience’s head. This technique is most useful for sports, music videos and narrative projects – where it compliments the story or the scene at hand. To get the equivalent of that using a shutter angle when shooting at 24 frames per second, you just want to shoot at a much lower shutter angle such as 11 degrees.

And you’ll get pretty much that same strobe-like effect. Now another way that we can manipulate shutter speed is to boost the exposure for low light situations. Now this is probably the most common reason that camera people manipulate shutter speed, is just to compensate for low lighting conditions a little bit. The primary purpose of shutter speed is to control how motion is portrayed on video. But the secondary purpose is to help manipulate exposure. It’s standard practice for many videographers to lower their shutter speed one or two settings below normal.

So instead of shooting with a shutter speed of 1/48 when shooting at 24 frames per second, they might instead set their shutter speed to 1/32. Or even to 1/24th if they were feeling really wild and crazy. This means each frame of video is exposed a little bit longer. And therefore will be a little bit brighter. Now, unlike using gain, lowering your shutter speed naturally lets more light into the lens. So it’s like being able to shoot a full stop below your lowest f stop without having any video noise side effect.

Because it’s only a notch or two down from your normal shutter speed setting, this has a minimal effect on motion, that results in slightly more image blur. But not enough to be bothersome. I do this automatically just about any time I’m shooting at an event that takes place at night. If you’re using shutter angles, a higher shutter angle that lets in more light than normal – like 240 degrees – should do the same trick for you just fine, if you’re shooting at 24 frames per second.

Now another fun use of shutter speeds… If you lower your shutter speed way below normal, say in the 1/3 to 1/15 range, it will make stationary objects in the background appear as normal. Moving things will appear as colourful blurs. This creates a very surreal and dreamlike effect. This makes shooting at very slow shutter speeds a popular choice for flash backs and dream sequences. Another popular way shooters use this technique is to have a character hold perfectly still while the entire world zips by around them. As they appear as if they are frozen in time.

Now the last cool shutter speed trick I’ll share, has limited applications, but it can come in handy. Shutter speeds of 1/3 or lower, let a lot more light into the lens than shooting at a normal shutter speed. Or a slightly slower shutter speed. When you use these super slow shutter speeds, our darkroom will appear on video as if it was fully lit or even over-exposed. With no video noise added to the picture. In order to avoid overexposing your shot in this mode, you may need to close down your lens.

At these super-slow shutter speeds, motion appears extremely exaggerated. So rather than just getting a trailing image of moving subjects and objects are delayed, sometimes by several seconds. And fast-moving subjects may become barely perceptible phantom-like blurs. The second application of this effect is a little more specialised, and that’s faking ghost footage. So to do this, just follow the same procedure I just told you in a darkened room and have an actor run or walk quickly through the scene. And you’ve got yourself a video phantom.

So that little trick could come in handy if you’re shooting a paranormal reality TV show. And the real ghost fails to show up on set. So those are just some of the many ways and fun things you can do with shutter speed. Again, a lot of these effects you’ve seen before. And you might think that they involve some fancy special effect software. But many of these are simple and easy effects that can be done in camera with the tools that you have available to you right now.

Reference:

  • Artis, Anthony Q. (2014) Different ways to use shutter speed. Retrieved from https://www.lynda.com/Shooting-Video-tutorials/Different-ways-use-shutter-speed/129017/176176-4.html