Older films with the speed ramping effect?
May 3, 2015 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Looking for Hollywood films released before the year 2000 that use the speed ramping effect.

I'm looking to find examples of films released before The Matrix (1999) that use the speed ramping effect. Film titles are helpful, but if you also know any specific scenes, that will help me watch examples faster.
posted by mtphoto to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Somewhere in the middle of The Fugitive, there is a flashback to Kimble fighting with the one-armed man. The shot was done at a high frame rate, and near the end of the shot, the editor began skip-printing frames, so the effect is that the speed ramps back up to normal (although there is no motion blur, a dead giveaway).

In the beginning of Scream, there's a shot of Drew Barrymore running towards the camera as the masked killer catches up to her and stabs her. This was achieved with a device that increased the camera's frame rate while simultaneously opening the shutter in very finely calibrated movements. Glad I wasn't the focus puller on that setup.
posted by infinitewindow at 12:12 PM on May 3, 2015

My understanding is that the technique for capturing "Bullet Time" sequences as we understand them today was developed for the Matrix films. This approach involves a series of still cameras along a rail, with their position developed in pre-vis, and the final shot stitched together digitally. You'll have to look for not-quite-Bullet-Time slow motion earlier in cinema history. That wikipedia page suggests looking at Michel Gondry's music videos for earlier examples of similar effects. It also name-checks Blade, Lost In Space (the 1998 remake) and an indie called Buffalo '66 as examples of slow-mo action, but I'm unclear if those films involve (the appearance of) going from normal speed to overcranked during a shot, which I think is what you're looking for.
posted by Alterscape at 12:14 PM on May 3, 2015

Yes, Bullet Time was invented specifically for the Matrix, but it had a number of forerunners that weren't done nearly as well. The earliest I know of is Ben Stokes's music video for Meat Beat Manifesto's song "Helter Skelter '97."
posted by infinitewindow at 12:25 PM on May 3, 2015

Response by poster: Excellent so far! Any pre-Matrix films where they transition from slow-motion/fast-motion to normal speed are what I'm looking for.

Most of the films I remember that used ramping were released after 2000. I think Minority Report used the effect in the some of the Precog visions. And of course, Zach Synder's 300 used the effect many times.

Maybe Fight Club had speed ramping?
posted by mtphoto at 12:48 PM on May 3, 2015

The Gap did an ad c. 1998 that had a proto version of bullet time. Youtube is being a jerk for me, just look up Gap khaki swing ads.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:56 PM on May 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

The school hallway scene in (head over heels) Donnie Darko, and the ending gun battle in The Wild Bunch come to mind.
posted by Zedcaster at 1:40 PM on May 3, 2015

Bad Luhrmann films achieve a similar effect with high-speed cameras and quick cuts. Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet. It is not quite what you are looking for, and it is more Charlie Chaplin than The Matrix.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:55 PM on May 3, 2015

John Woo is famous for his speed ramps and examples appear in many of his Hong Kong and Hollywood films in the early-/mid-90s.

An early example of the bullet time effect is in the music video of the Rolling Stones' remake of Like A Rolling Stone from 1995.

Wing Commander: The Movie was the first Hollywood film with bullet time; it was released 3 weeks before The Matrix.

The hardware for making bullet time is called multicam still-camera array. This article talks about the history of the effect and mentions the Gap ad from 1998. A Google image search will show photos of the arrays.
posted by praiseb at 4:28 PM on May 3, 2015

Martin Scorsese used a varispeed camera to very subtle effect for a number of scenes in The Age of Innocence.
Come to think of it, Scorsese uses this effect in a lot of his movies but the other one that really stands out is Raging Bull during the boxing sequences.
posted by wabbittwax at 4:43 PM on May 3, 2015

Response by poster: I forgot that one of my favorite films, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) used ramping during a scene where the main protagonists have a raging party. A few other scenes also appear to involve ramping.
posted by mtphoto at 11:17 PM on May 3, 2015

The Super-8 Sankyo XL-620 Supertronic had a lever that changed the speed from normal 24fps to 36fps. Lots of 70's-80's S-8 films had the speed ramp effect.
posted by Sophont at 7:55 AM on May 4, 2015

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