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Gratuitous Super-Slow Motion

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For many of us, one of the best things about watching Olympic games is pulling apart the television coverage. Not in a nasty way - it's usually very good and I remember the excitement of seeing some great innovations over the years; for example, the tracking camera that runs alongside the track & field runners.

So what was the big innovation at London? Super-slow motion, it seems. This is where they use a camera that shoots at higher than normal frame rates which results in spectacularly smooth slow motion replays.

Super-slow motion (SSM) is not exactly new but I've never seen it done so much at one event. And I mean overdone. It's like they needed some innovation - any innovation - so they had a meeting of all the directors and told them to pile on the SSMs.

Often it worked very well. More often it didn't. I quickly lost count of the endless SSM montages. If there was no sporting action to slow down, use a shot of a spectator. Or a duck. Or water lapping. Whatever it is, slow it down and replay it five times.

This is a classic example of doing something just because you can. SSMs have a reason to exist, and that reason isn't to show off your SSM cameras. Many of the SSM shots I saw would have been better at normal speed. During the rowing I became highly frustrated at only seeing half a race because the director had spent the last minute showing numerous SSM cutaway shots which had absolutely no relevance and could have been done in ten seconds.

One shot that sticks in my mind was during the 50km race walk. A Japanese contender was clutching his chest in discomfort and the director chose to show an unbelievably drawn-out SSM shot of it. This shot would have been rather slow even at normal speed (remember, this is a walking race!) but in slow motion it was excruciating. Even the commentator made several pointed comments. Here's a tip for up-and-coming directors: When your commentator says "I'm really not enjoying watching this", that's a hint for you to move on.

I couldn't find any London 2012 examples on YouTube to illustrate this post but here's a doozy from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. This is a fantastic example of why you should think about the usefulness of a shot before you put it to air:

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  1. Guest's Avatar
    I agree, it's like the old days when big zoom lenses came into vogue, the only shots were zoomed to the Max, don't worry about telling the story, just push the New Toys until people start tuning out, which I found myself doing on the Olympics. I ended up only watching the events where the Kiwis had a Medal chance.

    On the other Hand, the Opening Ceremony is still on My Sky, that was very well done.
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