Besides pacing back and forth in my room while watching infection and death rates climb, being stuck at home has me cycling through old films and my favourite Youtube accounts, which has been comforting, insightful, and inspiring. Firstly, black and white films on a rainy day is unbeatable. I’ve found there is nothing like some throwback Hitchcock or Kurasawa when you can’t go outside because weather and a global pandemic are colluding.

As always, I also found Nerdwriter a great source of inspiration in his technical and poetic analysis of cultural artifacts like cinema, television, art, and politics. A recent video of his looked at John Woo’s use of slow-motion to create impact with an audience, so let’s use this as a launchpad to explore pacing’s value in connecting with viewers.

Pacing Action and Slow Motion

Action films are made to feel frantic. As a kid who grew up in the 90s, I discovered quickly that these were popcorn movies, not intended to be intellectually challenging, but a wonderful moment of escapism and thrills that feed our bloodlust for heroes and villains.

John Woo’s movies were a staple in my household and set the standard for generations of films and video games that borrowed his signature style of using slow motion to ensure impact lands with the audience. Woo wasn’t even the first director to incorporate slow motion during frenetic action sequences – this technique was used by Akira Kurasawa, Arthur Penn, and Sam Peckinpah. Each of these directors understood the value in slowing down the action visually so audiences can absorb things more thoroughly while feeling the ‘hits’ onscreen through creative editing.

Woo weaves slow motion moments during frantic action sequences to help control pacing while allowing audiences to enjoy the visuals and really absorb the impact of a strike, a bullet, or an explosion. Many points of impact are slowed down and often repeated from various camera angles to echo the tension and release, which helps the impact resonate while carrying audiences from one scene to the next without feeling bored or exhausted.

As Nerdwriter put it, “Woo’s dilation of time isn’t just a matter of texture, but a tool for heightening the experience of impact. Woo uses slow motion after a strike, whether from a fist, a foot, a bullet, or melee weapon to reinforce the experience of that strike in the mind of an audience. Bullets particularly as gunshot and impact should be two distinct moments to help reinforce the hit.”

Slow motion is a useful technique to exaggerate and emphasise something, creating a sense of reverberation and heightened exhilaration. That’s why the hero always looks more powerful walking away slowly from an exploding helicopter or building – the contrast between the hectic visuals and reduced framerate creates a sharp parallel that audiences are continually drawn towards.

How to Create Pacing in Presentation

Pacing isn’t just the speed of speech and slideshow; it’s also about the way your message and structure carries the audience from one idea or slide to the next. Beyond the transitions you may use between slides, this means thinking about how you seamlessly move from one idea or concept to the next.

One great way to break up the monotony of your presentation or help maintain the pacing, think about posing questions to your audience and even discussing the answer among themselves. This helps warm your audience up, get them speaking to one another, and feel comfortable with questioning what you’re saying. Audience questions helps break the pace and allow audiences to engage with your presentation and content more directly.

Since most presentation design programs provide multimedia capabilities, this can also be useful for setting and controlling pacing. If you’ve got massive chunks of text that deep dive into a specific topic, it won’t hurt injecting more visual elements that help reinforce what you say while giving the presenter and the audience a brief reprieve.

Pacing in Video and Animation

The simplest way to control pace in video and animation is to play around with framerate, but this should be done cautiously, this can create onscreen motion blur while testing the limitations of your video equipment.

Controlling pacing in video and animation is done mostly through editing and music, which carries the audience through to a certain rhythm. Pace is often slowed down with voice over (or dialogue in film) but quick successive cuts like you’d see in a hypereel creates faster pacing while music should complement it. It could be a jarring experience if the pace of frames and music aren’t aligned, which is why you’ll commonly see slow motion accompanied by more leisurely and often orchestral music.

If you’d like to learn more about video and animation techniques in PowerPoint, download our free Ultimate Guide e-book. We built it in PowerPoint too, just to flex the software’s incredible versatility. Download your e-book here

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