Changing time and space in films and videos

Time lapse and slow motion

Time and Space in Film and Video
Changing Time and Space in Film and Video

The film can create effects which are not impossible in a photograph. These effects are changing time and space in films and videos. They include aperture, time lapse and slow motion. All three influence our perception of the time component in a film: they manipulate our sense of time by using visual manipulation, detached from the storyline.

Three types of apertures (screening off/fading-in, cross fading, flashback), time lapse and slow motion augment the editing options in communication with film and video.

The aperture

The aperture is a technical means of changing the perception of time in a film or a video.

Screening off and fading-in

As a slowly darkening image, it symbolises the course of time as screening off. If the image gradually fades into the first film image from the dark, the fading-in opens the field of vision to something which already existed and will now become part of the plot.

The aperture is an extremely subjective creative means, which provides the film image a subjective code within the course of editing and is understood immediately.

Cross fading

Cross fading hinders a setting from disappearing (screening off) or emerging (fading-in), but it blends two settings: the previous setting fades and the following setting appears almost simultaneously. Cross fading joins different processes and will also – always simultaneously – indicate a change in time.Cross fading works best for but is not restricted to close-ups. The more sparingly cross fading is applied in editing, the stronger the effect.

The use of cross fading to replace cutting is frowned upon if it is intended to simulate a cut which would otherwise have been impossible due the film image’s faulty design (for example because of an incorrect image focus or visual axes).

Naturally, you can iron out such clumsiness occurring during a shoot, by purely technical means – the director and cutter however must be aware of the fact that by using cross fading as a life belt, they also always symbolise the passing of time.

The more frequently cross fading is used, the more the audience views it as meaningless, playful formalism.


A flashback is the insertion of scenes in the plot to show earlier events. Flashbacks can be reminders but also explanations for the audience which, as opposed to the characters in the film, is provided with a better knowledge status.

Film time can be reversed by flashbacks! Walter Dadek

Flashbacks create the dramaturgically important option for confrontation of the present with the past or the future. Although the appearance of the flashback is connected to the plot, by definition it follows detached from reality. During editing, the flashback grows above and beyond the real sense of time and space. It enables the viewer to see and understand processes which he remains unaware of in real life.

Time lapse and slow motion

Slow motion or time lapse recording have a psychological, perceptive effect: They spiritualise (slow motion) or materialise (time lapse) a setting. By decelerating, slow motion shows processes not visible to the naked eye. Slow motion gives the audience time to see and understand things.

Therefore, slow motion is often and correctly used in product films to explain technical processes. In slow motion, people become an object of pure observation as opposed to in real recording which triggers the most complex of psychological reactions amongst the viewers.

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On the other hand, the time lapse opens a view of events which can only be recognised following their acceleration. A melting glacier only becomes really effective with time lapse, no matter how hard a film script tries to define the effect. Time lapse recordings can also bring apparently dead objects to life. The infinitely slow decomposition of a boulder, recorded over several months and years with single images, is suddenly brought to life in time lapse mode.

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Changing Time and Space: Summary

By using apertures, time lapse and slow motion, the director and cutter can create a new, individual, film-related period during the course of editing.

Elements which are recorded at different locations or are part of a story line at different times can be combined with apertures and tempo changes of film images to create a new reality.

Über Videothink Team 32 Artikel

Articles by the Videothink team are collaboratively-written by more than one member of the videothink publishing team.

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