If you have been like most people and kept an eye on the world soccer cup, you might have noticed something quite interesting. Well, at least if you are watching it on ESPN, the US sports channel in charge of broadcasting the games live.
This year, at least this is when we’ve noticed, the cable network has added a new twist: extreme slow motion. No, not extreme slow motion on the actions that led to a goal or a failed goal attempt. Not at all. That has been done forever. Extreme slow motion on expressions.
Every now and then, ESPN cuts into the video action to bring forth a face, a reaction or a slow sequence of arms being raised in sour despair. It will focus on a frustrated scream, an insider smile, an exhausted look and play it in very slow motion.
Why? Because real time video brings the action, extreme slow motion video brings the emotion. It is so slow that it could be viewed as a still, or series of stills. It brings the viewers closers to what the players are feeling at that fleeting moment by slowing down time. Almost to a standstill.
This shows how much the still, the ability to stop time is so much stronger than video. This shows how the two are not interchangeable as some may think, or wish. They are two modes of expressions showing two aspects of the same event. The video is extremely good at showing action; the still is a master in bringing the emotion.
The comparison between stills and video must stop here. The same way as the comparison between photography and painting stopped more than a century ago. Sure, all these can capture the same event, but what they bring out is not the same. And they should not be compared.
At first, ESPN extreme slow-mo on random “moments” of the game was annoying to me as I couldn’t understand their purpose. I am so used, like everyone else, to expecting video to show me actions of a purposeful meaning. I could not figure out why I was forced to see these snippets of “inaction”. Until they started building into me, making my experience as a viewer of these games more emotional. I could finally be more in touch with the players.
And really, that is what sports is all about, isn’t it? It is not just the moves that make a team win, it is mostly about the individual efforts, frustration, happiness, smiles, pains, intimacy, winks, and cascades of emotions that fill each and every player that has spend a lifetime performing at such a high level. Sure, goals are important. But the feeling of success and achievement in the eyes of the players that made it all possible makes them human. And only a still can catch that.
About the author
This business has too many Surveyors and not enough Bohemians” Roger Therond , legendary photo man, once said to a good friend of mine, Eliane Laffont. This blog is about restoring the balance and letting the Bohemians talk.
Paul Melcher has been named one of the “50 most influential individuals in American photography” by American Photo. He is currently senior vice president of the PictureGroup. He writes the Thoughts of a Bohemian blog