Whenever you need a moment of peace, slow TV is there for you. Based around long, calming videos of things like hikes, sunsets, train trips, and more, slow TV offers an intoxicating lack of action in a non-stop world. It’s also one of the easiest and most satisfying types of video to create. So, what slow TV tips do you need to know before you start filming? Let’s take a closer look.
What Do I Need To Make Slow TV?
Not that much! One of the best things about slow TV is that there’s no need for incredibly fancy cameras or audio or lighting equipment. You won’t need to learn all the secrets of expensive editing programs or camera techniques. At the most simple level, all you’ll need in terms of equipment is a camera that can record high-quality digital video and a basic editing program. Camera-wise, we’re partial to the GoPro series, which offers affordable, durable cameras that can go just about anywhere to create beautiful video. When it comes to editing, you may be able to put together simple videos with the editing program included on your PC (Windows Video Editor or iMovie.) Beyond those, there are many free or low-cost video editors that are simple to use – including some that operate completely online!
However, the most important thing you need to create slow TV is something to record! Sure, you can stick your camera in your backyard or out your apartment window and let it roll. But unless it’s a particularly interesting or beautiful scene, you may not find many people interested. The best slow TV comes from moments others would enjoy sharing with you from afar, so getting into the mindset of looking for potential video options can be extremely helpful.
Top 3 “Do’s” For Making Slow TV
We looked to Reddit’s r/SlowTV for their thoughts on what they look for in their Slow TV videos and top slow TV tips.
1. Video Stabilization
This can be an absolutely crucial element to creating enjoyable slow TV. It’s hard to relax when your frame of view is constantly bouncing, jiggling, or otherwise reminding you that you’re watching a video instead of part of the scene.
Depending on the type of camera and situation you’re filming, there are several different options for creating stable, watchable video. Some cameras (like our preferred GoPro Hero9 Black) have built-in digital stabilization available with just the touch of a button. You’ll likely need to experiment with varying levels of stabilization (if your camera offers them) to find the right balance that looks right for your scene and lighting. Mechanical stabilization products are also available as a replacement or supplement to digital stabilization. These include a variety of gimbals, which can dramatically improve the stabilization of your shot far beyond digital methods.
Remember, the idea is to be immersive. If your video contains motion, you should seek to move in an almost gliding fashion, with no discernible footsteps or jostling. If your video is stationary, stabilization should help create an ultra-fixed shot without even the slightest wobbles from wind or nearby movement.
2. Good Audio
Another of our slow TV tips – videos can be just as much about what you hear as what you see. Remember – immersion is the goal for many viewers, and poor-quality audio is one of the easiest ways to ruin that experience. Some sounds cited by slow TVers as their favorites – the crunch of gravel, waves lapping on a shore, the chirping of birds in the forest, or the murmur of busy city streets.
But there is some good news on this front. Passable quality audio is actually fairly easy to achieve these days, as long as your video camera is of reasonable quality. Most on-board microphones will do the trick, as long as you’re mindful of the overall soundscape of the area you’re filming. For example, don’t expect to pick up the crashing of waves from across a busy road unless you’re using additional audio equipment. You’ll need to do a bit of research on your own to find which types of microphones work best with your video equipment. When done right, the payoff can be spectacular.
3. Walking/Journeys/Complete Events
Content is king, as they say. Certain types of slow TV videos tend to do better than others. As noted by r/SlowTV, these often include complete events or journeys. It makes sense for several reasons, including that train journeys were among the very first slow TV videos to make a big splash in the international community. This goes even more so for events that can be completed in one viewing – a sunset, painting a wall or fence, the tide coming in or out.
Walking is also always a good choice for slow TV. Whether you’re strolling down a lonely forest trail or navigating jam-packed city streets, there’s something mentally satisfying about going on a journey from the comfort of your couch or computer desk.
Top 3 “Don’ts” For Making Slow TV
1. No Music
This is one of the biggest no-nos for many viewers when it comes to slow TV tips. Simply enough, most folks just want to be immersed in the world of the video, and that means the sounds, too. You can lose a certain sense of the scene with music added – are birds chirping? Cars honking? Are you missing snippets of conversations from passersby or just blocking out precious seconds of glorious silence? Generally speaking, you’ll want to leave the natural, diegetic sound as unaltered as possible, unless there’s a specific reason to do otherwise.
Despite this frequently-cited preference, it’s important to point out that two notable examples of early slow TV – the yule log and Night Walk – both make extensive use of music. So like every rule, it’s fine to break in the right circumstances or for the right audience.
2. No Sharp Turns Or Movements
It should go without saying, but the changes in perspective in slow TV should be, well, slow. It’s right in the name, after all. This is why subject matter like walking, boat trips, or sunsets are so popular. Done well, viewers gradually see their perspectives change.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as it sounds in many cases. It can be difficult to perceive how quickly your pan or tilt will appear on video – leading to situations where a nauseatingly quick turn isn’t discovered until editing or sharing your video. This is especially true for body or head-mounted cameras, where creators can’t even rely on the dexterity of their hands.
For stationary shots, invest in a reliable tripod, monopod, or other mounts. When the camera is moving with you, consider a gimbal or other mechanical stabilizing device. Of course, practice also makes perfect. Pan and tilt your camera at several different speeds while recording, and watch the clips back to see which feels right to your eye.
3. No Loops
Loops are a slightly more controversial topic, inasmuch as “slow TV controversy” exists. Looking at some of the top YouTube results for slow TV reveals several popular, hours-long videos that are nothing more than a loop repeated over and over again. Done right and with the right subject matter, it’s almost imperceptible. After all, are you really going to notice that same wave repeating or the palm tree blowing in the same way?
Still, it will bug some potential viewers to know that they’re not actually virtually sitting on that beach for an hour – they’re sitting on it for 30 seconds, 120 times. Loops also rob viewers of some of the most sublime moments of slow TV. When creators commit to a real long-form piece of content by actually spending the real time it takes to record, you’re rewarded with the small, subtle changes and moments that can help make your video a truly immersive experience.
Slow TV: Bringing Relaxation To Devices Near You
As you can see, making slow TV doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, most of us probably pass by one or more opportunities for great slow TV videos every single day without even realizing it! Keep these major Do’s and Don’ts in mind, and you’ll be sharing the relaxing moments of your life with the world before you know it.
If you’d like to learn more about slow TV, don’t miss our ultimate guide to slow TV, exploring the genre’s history, origins, and best examples.