Slow motion is a visual technique that is exclusively connected with the mediums of film and video.  Other aesthetic considerations, such as color, composition, and contrast, can be utilized in illustration, photography, even calligraphy.  But motion has always been the key differential for the modes of film and video, and the manipulation of that motion can be executed to elicit different responses.  By slowing our human interpretation of time (roughly 60 frames per second), there are a handful of distinct benefits experienced by the viewer:

LEARNING – Some natural events happen so quickly, we take our experience of them as truth, and don’t consider them any further.  For example, a dog drinking water.  Everyone knows that dogs lap their tongue forward, and pull whatever water they can towards the roof of their mouth.  Or do they…?

MAXIMUM IMPACT – A key benefit of a still image, such as a photograph or illustration, is that the audience can linger over and consider it for as long as they like.  It’s a visual moment frozen in time, and the viewer is left to determine the implications of that moment.  With film and video, slow motion can be utilized to give this same sense of importance to a brief blip of time.  After the addition of music, sound effects, or dialogue, these slowed cinematic moments force the viewer to unnaturally linger in otherwise-brief passages of wonder, intensity, or dread.

IT’S COOL – Maybe it’s a combination of learning and maximum impact, or something altogether different, but for the most part, slow motion just makes things look cooler. Gallagher smashing watermelons is funny but in slow motion?  Strangely inspirational.  Ever wonder what your face does when you get punched?  It’s pretty funny.  Only have 10 seconds of ninja footage to cover an entire music video?  That will do just fine.

From the original hands-on over-cranking methods to digital frame approximation to the incredible frame rates achieved by the today’s cameras, the capabilities of slow motion are increasing every year, to a wide variety of effects and intents.  In the fast-paced, exceedingly saturated world of media we experience every day, sometimes it’s good to stop for a moment (or a minute) and smell the roses.