My friend David recently shared this blog post on my Facebook timeline. It features Adam Magyar‘s mesmerising slow motion footage of commuters at the platform of Tokyo’s Shinjuku station (the busiest in the world) as the train rolls in. Filmed at high speed, it captures a slice of the commuters’ expression as the train moves past them. In Magyar’s words,
“An endless row of living sculptures brought together by the same subway line, the same direction, the same intention of taking the train to get caught and carried away by the urban flow. All their motions slowed down, they are graceful and stainless, holding their breath waiting for their train to pull into the station.”
I have a Nikon 1 V1 camera which is capable of shooting at 400 or 1,200fps so I decided to try it out. I decided to go for 400fps as the 1,200fps results in a very low resolution video. As it is, the 400fps is already rather low res at only 640×240, so I do not want to sacrifice video resolution for frame rate.
When I first tried this out on my way to work, there aren’t many people on the platform as it’s Chinese New Year leave and everyone’s probably on leave. I decided to try again on the new Downtown Line while on my way to a family dinner.
I positioned myself right at the front of the train and set the camera up with the 1 Nikkor 18.5mm f/1.8 CX, ISO 1,600. As soon as I caught sight of the platform, I hit record. The Nikon 1 V1 only records 5s of realtime in the 400fps mode, resulting in a 1 min of slow motion footage. Like Adam’s excellent work, the instantaneous expressions of the commuters appear to be frozen in time as the train passes. These expressions were usually missed by the casual observer but is now clearly visible.
As far as capturing the commuters go, I think I’ve somewhat succeeded. However, the presence of the platform screen doors meant that the video is interrupted every now and then. The fluorescent-lit platform also caused flicker to appear in the resulting video. So, I am going to try this out again on a station which is above ground in the day to see what happens. It might also be interesting to shoot into the train from the platform and capture the commuters within, so I’ll give that a try as well.
Watch this space.