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The opposite of overcranking.

Undercranking involves filming at a slower frame rate so that the action is sped up when played back. Sometimes witnessed in car chases, especially on the 1960s Batman TV show. In the days when film cameras were hand-cranked, most operators were trained to slow down slightly whenever a punch was thrown, so that the blow would seem faster than it really was: almost all of Jackie Chan's martial arts movies make use of the same basic principle during the fight scenes to make the action seem more exciting. When shooting video, where the framerate cannot be manually controlled mid-shot, a similar effect can be produced in the edit suite by selectively deleting a single frame here and there.

Generally, the frame rate isn't lowered to less than 21 frames per second, as anything beyond this makes the effect too glaring. More extreme undercranking tends to be used for supernatural characters (to emphasise their unnatural speed), or comedic effect (because it's easy to make it look funny). As with overcranking and the Chariots of Fire theme, if someone's running, expect to hear "Yakety Sax" either onscreen (if it's a comedy) or in your head (if it's not).

Beyond extreme undercranking, where you are still counting in frames exposed per second, comes "time lapse" shooting, where you are counting in seconds (or hours, or longer) per frame exposed. Popular subjects for time lapse are blooming flowers, the movement of the clouds or stars, building concert stages, and city streets.

A significant subtrope is The Speed of Silents. See also Adrenaline Time, i.e. ramping.

Examples of Under Crank include:


Advertising

  • Used on Transformers toy commercials, to avoid having to either sit there for five minutes while a kid transforms a 10-inch-tall toy, or cut off a transformation halfway through to fit in the commercial slot.

Documentaries

  • Planet Dinosaur does it in various scenes, and it's a major reason why the CGI of that show gets trashed so much. But truth be told, it is a very distracting effect, especially when there's no motion-blur, and the animals you're watching are supposed to be several-ton beasts, yet jerk around like frantic mice.
  • Koyaanisqatsi was largely based around exploring how this and the Overcrank could be used in creative ways.

Film

  • Oddly used in one chase scene in Blade.
  • Used in Gladiator with a shot from the arena floor that makes the tigers even quicker and scarier.
  • The Gods Must Be Crazy makes extensive use of this.
  • An odd case is found in Gojira no Gyakushuu/Godzilla Raids Again. In some of the fight sequences between Godzilla and Anguirus, the usual overcranking technique used to add a sense of weight to the monsters was accidentally reversed - but the effects supervisor liked how the shots turned out and kept the footage anyhow.
  • Used often, to comedic effect, in Hot Fuzz for everything from shoot outs to signing papers.
  • In some recent horror movies (the House on Haunted Hill remake, 13 Ghosts, and Jacob's Ladder come to mind), the ghosts are filmed WAY undercranked to make them look deranged and supernaturally fast on playback. Especially the headshaking ghosts.
  • The blaxploitation movie The Human Tornado severely undercranks every single "unimportant" fight scene, along with Dolemite's hilarious commentary.
  • Used by the Marx Brothers, e.g. in A Night at the Opera to make Harpo's character run down the stairs unnaturally fast.
  • Frequent during the fight scenes in the early Bond films, particularly egregious in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.
  • The backgrounds of the speeder bike race on Endor in Return of the Jedi are the result of an undercranked camera and a Steadicam.
    • So undercranked that it shot one frame per second.
  • For his Film of the Book Firefox, Clint Eastwood hired the same special-effects man, John Dykstra, to do the supersonic nap-of-the-earth fighter-jet chase footage as George Lucas hired to do the Endor speeder-bike sequence mentioned above. In the behind-the-scenes featurette, Dykstra said it was quite a struggle to find a place with enough land to do the sequence because like in Return of the Jedi, the camera was being cranked at 1 frame per second, on a Learjet
  • Used for action shots in the big chase scene in The Road Warrior.
  • Baz Luhrmann's ~William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet~ cuts undercranking into sequences with stylistic results.
  • Used very subtly on the first person viewshots (to the point of near-unnoticeability) during parts of the famous chase scene in The French Connection.
  • Used frequently in Requiem for a Dream during drug scenes..
  • Used for the Audrey II scenes in Little Shop of Horrors, because the hydraulics used to move the animatronic puppet were too slow at natural speed to match the fast-paced dialogue.
  • Used frequently in The Three Stooges shorts as a kind of special effect. Many of their signature gags are undercranked.
  • Most kung-fu movies in the 70s were undercranked to make the action look faster.
    • Inverted by Bruce Lee, whose scenes were overcranked because he was so goddamn fast.
  • Cool Runnings
  • Paranormal Activity was known for doing this in place of a Time Compression Montage (it even gets parodied at the Academy Awards, with Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin sharing a hotel room.)
  • Parodied in Surf's Up during the set-up for the surfing competition. During an undercranked montage of the set-up, the backing music speeds up faster and faster. At the end, one of the characters says "I feel lightheaded" in a chipmunk voice.
  • A variant on this was used in 28 Days Later.... The film was shot using Canon XL-1 DV cameras, which have the ability to use a very, very fast shutter speed (1/1600th of a second or faster) that appears to playback at the same speed as the rest of the movie, but while looking very jittery and jumpy. Nearly all of the scenes featuring the infected were shot this way.
    • And, interestingly enough, the scenes with Jim toward the end.
  • Undercranking was used to create the signature head twitches of the 'demons' in Jacob's Ladder. This effect in turn was replicated several times in the Silent Hill video game series.
  • In Scream the shot of Casey's corpse falling from the tree was sped up to avoid an NC-17 rating.
  • Used quite noticeably for some fight scenes in Equilibrium.
  • Occurs for no particular reason in the Olivia Newton-John sci-fi film Toomorrow, when ONJ and her wacky bandmates pile into her tiny car and peel off into the streets of Chelsea in London.
  • The climax of Strangers on a Train (in which a carousel spins dangerously out of control) was achieved this way. It hasn't aged particularly well, however.

Live Action TV

  • Seen at the end of every episode of The Benny Hill Show. This may have tainted it forever.
  • Unfortunately quite obviously used in early episodes of Highlander the Series, especially in the pilot when they had to make Richard Moll look like a skilled and dangerous sword fighter. Yes, 'Bull' from Night Court.
  • The Munsters
    • In relation to that, there was a Nick-at-Nite commercial that promoted the comedic effects of "Fast motion!", featuring said scenes from The Munsters.
  • Used in Royal Pains for montages, at least in the Pilot Episode.
  • Every single stinking car chase scene they ever filmed in the entire run of Pamela Anderson's V.I.P.
  • The Carry On movies.
  • Often used in bursts in Good Eats, when Alton is doing something that would otherwise be boring, like stirring a bowl full of something.
  • Used in every episode of The Big Comfy Couch as part of the "10-Second Tidy."

Music

  • Used comedically in the music video for "White and Nerdy".
  • Used in TLC's "Dear Lie" Music Video, resulting in some really weird dancing.
  • Orbital's video for "The Box". It looks like Tilda Swinton moved very slowly during filming, so the undercrank brings her up to normal speed while still making her movements rather unnatural; everyone around her is a super-fast blur.

Video Games

  • Grand Theft Auto IV: The trailer "Things will be different" used this effect on in-game scenes.
  • Silent Hill, being heavily influenced by Jacob's Ladder, uses a similar effect on some of its resident monsters, particularly in the third game.

Web Original

  • Raocow will sometimes speed up some of the footage of his ~Let's Play~s in order for them to fit in YouTube's 11-minute (later upped to 15) limit. He calls this "chipmunk time". Even though YouTube no longer has a time limit, he still does this sometimes anyway because it's funny.
  • This is how Fred gets his trademark high-pitched voice.
  • In The Nostalgia Critic's review of Battlefield Earth, during his epic meltdown, he rants on how stupid it is by screaming "stupid stupid stupid" followed by a Cluster F-Bomb. Most of the rant is double-speeded.
    • Also done with a "Try, try, try, try, try, try..." Madness Mantra in the Garbage Pail Kids review.


Western Animation

  • Used in The Amazing World of Gumball. In the episode "The Laziest", Gumball and Darwin undergo a sugar rush, which causes them to run around with their voices chipmunked (including at least one line that's sped up so much that it's unintelligible).
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