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A velocity speed ramp, also known as a variable speed ramp, is one of the most useful and creative video editing techniques. It allows you to smoothly slow down or speed up a clip to create dramatic effects.
The name comes from the fact that you are adjusting the velocity, or speed, of the clip over time. This ramping effect is achieved by setting keyframes in your editing timeline and adjusting the speed between them. For example, you could set the speed to 50% at the start of the clip to slow it down, then ramp it up to 300% in the middle for fast motion, and end at 100% for normal speed.
Using speed ramps gives you complete control over the timing and pace of your footage. Fast motion can convey a sense of energy and excitement. Slow motion is great for highlighting details and adding impact to moments. And smooth transitions between fast and slow sections accentuate the effect.
Skilled use of velocity speed ramps takes videos to the next level. In action sports, ramps emphasize big moments like jumps and crashes. In travel videos, slow motion can showcase locations, while speed ramping through mundane footage makes the pace more dynamic. Dramas and music videos use the technique to build tension and match the soundtrack.
The key is choosing the right clips that will pop in slow motion or benefit from accelerated speed. And use ramps strategically to control the storytelling, rather than just sporadically. Smooth natural-looking speed changes take time to perfect, but the cinematic payoff is worth it.
Selecting the perfect shots to apply speed ramping to is one of the most important parts of mastering this technique. Not all footage benefits from slowing down or speeding up. You want clips that will have maximum impact at various speeds.
For slow motion, look for moments with a lot of motion and action. Things like athletes performing tricks, vehicles in motion, nature shots with movement like waves or blowing leaves, and other dynamic events are ideal. The extra frames let you appreciate details that go by too fast at normal speed. Faces and expressions also shine in slow motion. Watching a smile spread across someone"s face or seeing a tear roll down their cheek has much more emotional power.
On the flip side, fast motion works best with static or repetitive shots. Things like traffic passing by, people walking, and clouds drifting along look more interesting sped up. It condenses the action so transitions and cuts between clips can be tighter. Accelerating a talking head shot or other footage with little movement also lets you trim it down without losing context.
When applying speed ramps within a single clip, choose ones with distinct sections that will benefit from different speeds. For example, a skateboarder speeding up to jump, flying through the air in slow motion, and then landing into a fast grind down a rail. Or a tranquil nature scene that abruptly transitions into a storm. Matching the speeds to the energy of each part of the shot enhances the storytelling.
It"s also important to choose shots that have motion and camera movement that will still look natural at various speeds. Quick pans and zooms or handheld footage with a lot of shake may look awkward in slow motion. And sped up clips can have a strange strobe effect with excessive camera movement. Static shots often ramp better.
Finally, pay attention to shot composition. Images with negative space around the focal point work well, allowing the viewer"s eye to stay on the action when ramping speed. Avoid shots where objects move in or out of the frame, as the timing will get thrown off by speed changes. Wide shots give you more flexibility than tight shots when it comes to retiming things like gestures or dialogue.
Once you've selected your clips, it's time to set speed keyframes to create the ramping effect. This process may seem complicated at first, but with practice it will become second nature.
The key is understanding how changing the spacing of keyframes affects timing. Pack the keyframes close together and the speed change is abrupt. Spread them out for a gradual, smooth ramp. Use lots of keyframes for complex changes, fewer for simple slow down/speed up effects.
Next, position keyframes where you want speed to change. For example, if a skater is approaching a jump, place a keyframe just before takeoff to slow the action. Concentrate additional keyframes around the peak action, then ramp back up to full speed on the landing.
Many editors advocate working backwards from major moments first. Set keyframes on the big action, then fill in entrance and exit speed changes after. This ensures the focus is properly highlighted above all.
When setting intermediate keyframes, evenly spacing is a good starting point. But footage may not ramp smoothly. Don't be afraid to tweak positioning until the flow feels right. Rely on your eye over what the timeline view looks like.
Adjust keyframe speed values to control pacing. Going from 100% to 50% doubles the clip duration, 25% quadruples it, etc. Increase speed above 100% to condense and hurry sections. Start conservatively, then push to extremes for stylistic effect.
Watch your sequence multiple times, stopping to refine keyframes that feel off. Setting great speed ramps requires patience and an iterative approach. You'll get better each time as you develop your editing eye.
Videomaker operator Ryan Connolly says "Editing speed ramps is really a tactile process. You need to be able to tweak and update until it feels right." He recommends hitting the razor tool shortcut over and over to quickly add and delete keyframes. This fosters experimentation versus overthinking keyframe placement as you go.