Slow motion in Raging Bull

In this article we’ll be talking a lot about slow motion, so maybe it’s a good idea to briefly describe how slow motion works: The concept behind slow motion (as you can see in the image below) is that images are captured faster than they will be played back. That’s it, that’s the idea.

Wiki: Slow motion
Wiki: Slow motion

In this example, movement that would take 1 second in real-time takes 2 seconds when projected through the projector. This creates a sense of slow motion.

Now, capturing 20 frames per second (FPS) and projecting them at 10 FPS is not very typical and probably not a very good idea, since projecting film frames in such low frame rate would result in jerky movement.

Better and more typical is to shoot at 48 FPS or 120 FPS (and project later at 24 FPS). Nevertheless, shooting at higher frame rate and playing the footage back at lower frame rate is completely meaningless and pointless if you don’t know why you are actually doing it, so the question is: What would be the reason to play with various frame rates and distort thus the perception of reality?

POV (click! :))

POV shot is one of the best reasons and opportunities to distort, manipulate and play with the perception of reality. Thanks to POV shot, we see what the character sees. But not only that, POV shot gets us inside the head of the character, so we can experience what and how he feels. We literally see/hear the world through his eyes/ears.

A lot of the shots in the film had different degrees of slow motion, but notice that all of them were preceded by close-up of Jake La Motta, telling us unmistakably that this is his POV.

Slow motion shots appeared both in boxing ring as well as in his domestic life. Scenes (and slow motion shots) inside the boxing ring were already discussed at length (see the links at the end). Therefore, we’ll focus on the slow motion shots that appear outside the boxing ring.

Watch the video below to experience how is to see the world through the eyes of Jake La Motta – self destructive paranoid violent ambitious possessive suspicious volatile explosive angry and jealous character.

Now, we know why Martin Scorsese used slow motion shots throughout the movie, but what does it actually mean? What does it portray?

1) Fetishisation

Slow motion may be used to indicate a fetishisation of the subject. A way of suggesting that the subject is able to hypnotize the viewer with his or her actions (1). This is what happened when Jake sees Vickie for the first time at the neighborhood swimming-pool. The problem is that he doesn’t see her as a person, but as individual parts (eyes, cheekbones, legs). He sees her as a sexual trophy.

2) Increased awareness

Later in the film, slow motion serves to different purpose – to emphasize the raptness of Jake’s attention and awareness. This happens during the scene at the St Clare’s Church dance, when we are given slow motion POV shots of Vickie and of Vickie and Salvy as Jake looks across the room, and of Vickie and Salvy as Jake follows them from the dance and watches them drive off in Salvy’s car (2).

3) Paranoia and jealousy

Finally, slow motion gives more credence to his escalating paranoid state (3) and jealousy. He sees the world in slow motion and interprets every minute detail. To Jake La Motta’s paranoid mind, people’s actions always require pessimistic interpretation. “Anything is possible,” as he says several times. His eye for detail, as shown via slow motion shots, causes multitudes of possibilities to furiously zigzag and crisscross in his mind, often causing him to suspect people of wronging him and sullying his masculinity (4).

24 FPS sound

It is interesting to note that during the slow motion shots we hear real sound, the actual 24 FPS sound. This gives the slow motion shots slightly disturbing feeling. It builds tension and increases Jake’s paranoia towards the end.

During my preparation for this article I came across many interesting articles and books, but this one stands out: Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull. Just read it.




Secret to cinematic storytelling

Visual effects guru Rob Legato unfolds the secret to cinematic storytelling, sounds exciting? Watch the video below:

What do you think about this talk? I thought it was pretty awesome! Especially the part where he talked about how we remember events.

Reality vs. Perception

There is a huge difference between what we perceive (visually and audibly) and what we remember. To quote Rob Legato: “When we’re infused with either enthusiasm or awe or fondness or whatever, it changes and alters our perception of things. It changes what we SEE. It changes what we remember.”

Now, notice that I emphasized the word see in the sentence above. That is because Rob Legato thinks visually. But exactly the same can be applied to sound, we can change it to: “When we’re…it changes what we HEAR.”

Sound design guru Randy Thom said that in sound design you begin by trying to forget for a while what it would really sound like and start thinking about what it would feel like. (1)

Some of you may argue that this is a different approach (what we remember vs. what it feels like), but it is the same: Emotional experiences, whether good or bad, leave strong traces in the brain. (2) These emotional experiences are likely to be recalled more often and with more clarity and detail than neutral events. (3)

For example, I could describe you in vivid detail the evening when I cooked a meal for the first time for my girlfriend, but I wouldn’t be able to describe what I did that day in the morning, because there was no emotion connected to this.

The art of creating awe

The point is, we as storytellers (sound designers, VFX artists, cinematographers, editors, you name it…) use this emotional memory to enhance the story and make it emotionally true and real. In other words: We don’t replicate reality, we create perceived reality.

Apollo 13 (1995)
Apollo 13 (1995)

This is why Rob Legato replicated the launch sequence in Apollo 13 based on what people remembered and thought was memorable. (And memorable doesn’t necessarily mean real or accurate.)

Secret to cinematic storytelling

Sound designers use sweetening, cinematographers color palette etc., because this is how it would feel like, this is how we would remember the event. To paraphrase Martin Scorsese: “The idea behind sound effects in Raging Bull is to give impression of the battles inside the ring. It’s the way the character would perceive it.”

Again, we as filmmakers don’t replicate reality, we create perceived reality. And this is the reason why I fell in love with filmmaking and became completely obsessed with cinematic storytelling.




Color and the look of a film – Visual Analysis

Cinematic storytelling is about connection between various filmmaking techniques (in this case color palette) and their function within the narrative of the film.

This excellent article guides you through color palette in various movies and answers questions to “what, how”, but most importantly answers the “WHY” question! Love it!


Have you ever wondered or noticed why certain films look a certain way tonally? It is not just a simple matter of color grading an image in post-production. A director works closely with a director of photography, production designer and costume designers to create a color palette that fits the story of the film. The color of the film is controlled on a set. Each story itself can be told in a plethora of ways – meaning, depending on what that story is about, and what is the thematic underpinning of it – the look of the film will often be based on those factors. For instance it may depend on the setting and the world within which the story takes place; time period, location of it. Therefore the color palette of the film will largely be dictated by these elements. So let’s start looking at some examples..

In a scene…

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