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Travel mindfully.
Pursue creatively.
Live life with intention.

How to Shoot Slow Motion Video on the Sony a6500

by Tom Shu

One of the biggest reasons why I decided to pick up the Sony a6500 versus the other mirrorless cameras on the market is because of its video capabilities. Specifically, what impresses me most about this camera after using it for over a year on a variety of different projects is its slow-motion video capabilities.

The Sony a6500 can shoot 120 frames per second (FPS) and 60 frames per second (FPS) slow-motion video at 1080p. There are two different ways to capture slow-motion video. The first way is to shoot at a slow-motion frame rate in camera and then slow it down in post-production using editing software. The second option is to use the camera’s built-in S&Q Mode (Slow & Quick Mode), which lets you shoot and playback a slow-motion clip directly after capturing the footage.

In this quick post today, here is what I’m going to cover:

  • How to set up your camera and use the two different slow-motion shooting options
  • The pros, and cons of each option
  • How to customize your camera to shoot slow motion
  • 5 cinematic examples of the a6500’s slow-motion capabilities in action
  • 10 tips for capturing the best slow-motion footage with the Sony a6500

 

How to Use the Two Slow Motion Options with Your a6500

The two slow-motion options are very similar, but there are some differences in how to set them up.

Before getting to the camera set up portion of this article, I want to point out that if you want the crispiest, juiciest, most drool-worthy slow-motion footage, you should shoot at the high frame rate in camera and interpret the footage in post-production using editing software.

Shooting this way will give you the best quality possible as you can shoot at a higher bit rate. Put simply, a higher bit rate will give you higher quality video.

To give you an idea of the bit rate difference between shooting the slow-motion footage in-camera versus using S&Q mode, you can shoot 120 FPS at up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) in-camera while you can only shoot at 12 megabits per second (Mbps) in S&Q mode.

I’m not going to get into the specifics about the bit rate in this article, but if you want to learn more here is a great article I found from encoding.com.

Option 1 – Shoot at High Frame Rate and Interpret Footage in Post

I understand it can feel like a hassle at first to know that you’ll have to import your footage into a video editor to interpret your footage to slow motion, but it’s definitely worth it.

The last thing you want to happen is to capture once in lifetime footage, only to wish you had captured it at the best quality possible.

There are only a few steps to get your camera set up to capture footage at the slow-motion frame rates available in the camera, so let’s get going.

1.) Turn the mode dial to the Movie mode.

Movie Menu - how to shoot slow motion video on sonya 6500 - witandfolly.co

 

2.) Navigate to the camera 2 tab. It looks like a camera icon with the number 2 to the right of it and the background is purple. Looking at this picture might be easier.

camera 2 tab highlighted - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

3.) Select the “Movie/S&Q Motion” option in submenu 1 of 9.

Camera 2 movie and s&q menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

4.) In this menu, you will be able to choose which recording setting you want to shoot with. The options you have are Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual Exposure. For this post, select Manual Exposure which will allow you to select which aperture and shutter speed to record at. If you want the camera to determine the best settings automatically, choose Program Auto.

movie and S&Q manual exposure mode - how to shoot slow motion with a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

5.) Select XAVC S HD for File Format. You’re not able to shoot slow motion at 4k with the a6500.

File Format Setting - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

File format selection menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

6.) Select the Record Settings menu.

Record Setting Menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

7.) You will be able to choose your Record Settings on this menu. The choices you have for slow-motion frame rates are below. For this post, lets select 120p at 100 Mbps for the slowest and best quality footage.

  • 120p (FPS); Bit-rate approximately 100 Mbps
  • 120p (FPS); Bit-rate approximately 60 Mbps
  • 60p (FPS); Bit-rate approximately 50 Mbps
Record setting selection menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

8.) That’s it! You’re good to go shoot some juicy 120fps slow-motion clips now. All you have to do is hit that record button. Just remember your footage will playback at normal speed if you review it in-camera. To slow it down you will have to interpret the footage in post using editing software.

Option 2 – Shooting Slow Motion Using S&Q Mode

 

1.) Turn the mode dial to Movie Mode

Movie Menu - how to shoot slow motion video on sonya 6500 - witandfolly.co

 

2.) Navigate to the camera 2 tab. It looks like a camera icon with the number 2 to the right of it and the background is purple. Looking at this picture might be easier.

camera 2 tab highlighted - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

3.) Select the “Movie/S&Q Motion” option in submenu 1 of 9.

 

4.) In this menu, you will be able to choose which S&Q setting you would like to shoot with. The S&Q options you have are S&Q Program Auto, S&Q Aperture Priority, S&Q Shutter Priority, and S&Q Manual Exposure. For this post, select S&Q Manual Exposure which will allow you to manually select the aperture and shutter speed to record at. If you want the camera to determine the best settings automatically, choose S&Q Program Auto.

NOTE: The record settings for shooting slow motion in the camera are above the S&Q settings on the same menu. To ensure you are choosing an S&Q mode option, look for the S&Q logo in a white box on the left side of the shooting mode.

s&q menu selection - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

5.) Select XAVC S HD for File Format. You’re not able to shoot slow motion at 4k with the a6500.

File Format Setting - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

File format selection menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

6.) Select the S&Q Settings menu.

s&q menu selection - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co


7.) You will be able to choose your Record Setting and Frame Rate in this menu. First, let’s choose the record setting. For record setting, you will be able to choose between 24p or 30p, which is the same as 24 FPS or 30 FPS. Depending on which record setting you choose, you will have different frame rate options to record at. Let’s select 24p.

s&q settings menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

s&q record setting menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

8.) Next, let’s choose the slow-motion frame rate to record at. The choices we have for slow-motion frame rates on a record setting of 24p are 120 FPS, 60 FPS, 30 FPS, 15 FPS, 8 FPS, 4 FPS, 2 FPS, and 1 FPS. Let’s select 120 FPS for the slowest footage possible.

s&q frame rate menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

9.) That’s it! All you have to do is hit record to capture some crispy 120 FPS slow-motion footage using the S&Q mode. The cool thing is since you’re using S&Q mode, the camera does all the work for you and your slow-motion footage is now ready to use. Remember, that if you do want to switch back to shooting slow motion in camera and interpreting the footage in post-production, you will have to back through the “Movie/S&Q Motion” option to select an in-camera slow-motion option.



Pros and Cons of Each Option

Like most things in life, it’s a give or take against the negatives and positives of each option.

For me, I always choose to shoot at the high frame rate in camera and then interpret the footage in post-production because the projects I work on require the highest quality of the footage.

With that said, I know many of you might not have access to editing software and just want some nice slow-motion footage, so S&Q mode is probably the better fit for you.

In any case, it’s good to know the pros and cons of each option because you will probably use both of them at some point.

Shoot at a High Frame Rate and Interpret Footage in Post Production

Pros

  • You record at the highest bit rate possible on the camera for slow-motion frame rates, which means you will capture more data in each second of footage.
  • Since you are interpreting the footage in post-production, you have the flexibility of modifying the slow-motion footage during your editing process. With footage shot in S&Q, what you shot is what you get.
  • You will have a greater margin of error as you will have captured more data when recording.

Cons

  • You will need editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro to interpret your footage.
  • Higher bit rate footage has larger file sizes, so you will have to invest in larger hard drives depending on how much footage you capture.
  • Since you have to interpret your footage in post, you will not be able to preview what your footage looks like in slow motion right after you have shot it.

 

Shooting Slow Motion Using S&Q Mode

Pros

  • The camera does all the work for you, so you can use the slow-motion footage right after shooting it.
  • No need to spend extra time importing your footage into editing software to interpret your footage.
  • The file sizes are smaller.

Cons

  • S&Q Mode shoots at a lower bit rate so the quality of your footage is not as good.
  • The margin of error is smaller since you are already capturing a less amount of detail.
  • What you shoot is the final product, so it is harder to modify the footage if you want to after shooting it.

 

Best Way to Customize Your Camera for Shooting Slow Motion

Let’s be honest. Although slow-motion footage always looks so cinematic, you will probably want to shoot at 4k once in a while.

The best way to do this is to set up the camera so you’re easily able to switch between a slow-motion frame rate and 4k as fast as possible.

You want to make sure to set this up beforehand because if you rely on Sony’s internal menu system, it’s nearly impossible to switch between the different settings efficiently and you’ll likely miss out on capturing some great footage.

This is how I’ve customized my a6500’s button layout.

I’ve found this layout to be very easy to use in real-life situations and ever since initially setting it up, I haven’t changed it throughout 20+ projects.

Since I use my camera for both video and photography work it might be different for you.

The most important thing is just to set your camera up in a way that’s comfortable for you.

Customized Button Layout

  • Memory Recall 1: 120fps with XAVC S HD 1080p file format
  • Memory Recall 2: 30fps with XAVC S 4k file format
  • Custom Button 1: Record button
  • Custom Button 2: Digital zoom
  • Custom Button 3: Focus magnifier for when I’m using manual focus.
  • Center Button: Center Lock-on AF. I use this for photography.
  • Left Button: White balance
  • Right Button: ISO
  • Down Button: Exposure compensation. I use this more for photography.
  • AEL Button: Eye AF. I use this more for photography.
  • AF/MF Button: AF/MF Ctrl Toggle
  • Focus Hold Button: Focus hold

 

How to Set up the Custom Buttons

Setting up the custom buttons on your camera is very easy to do, but it does take a little bit of time.

Trust me though.

The extra time you spend at the beginning setting up your camera and the extra time you spend getting used to the custom layout is well worth it.

Before you know it, you’ll be flying between slow motion and 4k and adjusting ISO, white balance, and f-stop all on the go.

Here’s how to get started on customizing your camera button layout.

 

Setting up the Memory Recall Modes

Let’s start by setting up the Memory Recall 1 and Memory Recall 2 modes on the mode dial.

To do this, we have to store the settings in the camera’s memory recall.

In total, there are 6 memory recall slots in the camera. 2 slots located physically on the mode dial, which is what we’re setting up and 4 memory recall slots accessed internally through the camera’s menu (M1 – M4).

You can add different settings for the camera to recall in the M1 – M4 memory recall slots if you want to, but I have found no need to do so yet.

1.) Turn the mode dial to Movie Mode and follow the instructions we went over in “Option 1 – Shoot at High Frame Rate and Interpret Footage in Post” to select XAVC S HD file format and 120fps.

2.) Once you have your file format and FPS selected, set the shutter speed to 1/250 and the f-stop, ISO, etc. that you would like to recall whenever you turn to this memory recall on the dial. I set the shutter speed to 1/250 as you want the shutter speed double your frame rate. In other words the 180-degree rule.

3.) After you have your settings selected, go to tab 1 on the menu. It looks like a camera icon with a red background and the number 1 to the right of it.

Camera 1 Tab 1 - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

4.) Navigate to sub menu 4 of 14 and select the camera1 / camera2 Memory option, which should be the only option.

memory recall menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

5.) Once you select this option, you will see this screen displaying all the settings you have chosen. Select memory recall 1 from the top menu. Now you can recall these exact settings every time you change your mode dial to memory recall 1.

memory recall 120 fps menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

6.) Go through the same steps for your 4k video settings. Save these settings to memory recall 2. For 4k depending on the frame rate chosen (24p or 30p), your initial shutter speed should be 1/50 or 1/60 to follow the 180-degree rule.

Memory recall 4k settings - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

Setting Up Your Custom Buttons

Next up, let’s set up the custom buttons that will allow you to switch your camera settings such as ISO, White Balance, and even digital zoom on the fly while filming.

1.) Open up your menu and navigate to the camera 2 tab. It looks like a camera icon with the number 2 to the right of it and the background is purple.

camera 2 tab highlighted - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

2.) Go to submenu 8 of 9 and select the Custom Key(Shoot.) option.

custom button menu - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

3.) Once you’re in this menu, you’ll see two pages with custom button options available. There are 10 buttons that you can customize in this menu.

custom button menu 1 - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

custom button menu 2 - how to shoot slow motion with sony a6500 - witandfolly.co

 

4.) Just in case you don’t feel like scrolling back up, here is my customized button layout again. If you don’t like any of my button customizations, feel free to switch it up to what works for you too!

Customized Button Layout

  • Memory Recall 1: 120fps with XAVC S HD 1080p file format
  • Memory Recall 2: 30fps with XAVC S 4k file format
  • Custom Button 1: Record button
  • Custom Button 2: Digital zoom
  • Custom Button 3: Focus magnifier for when I’m using manual focus.
  • Center Button: Center Lock-on AF. I use this for photography.
  • Left Button: White balance
  • Right Button: ISO
  • Down Button: Exposure compensation. I use this more for photography.
  • AEL Button: Eye AF. I use this more for photography.
  • AF/MF Button: AF/MF Ctrl Toggle
  • Focus Hold Button: Focus hold

 



3 Cinematic Examples of the a6500’s Slow Motion Capabilities

Now that the boring camera set up part is over, it’s time to get out to shoot and create something meaningful to you!

To get your creative juices flowing, here are 5 of my examples that I found on YouTube which highlight the slow-motion capabilities on this camera and what you can do with it.

I’ve included 1 of my short films and 2 additional examples from other Filmmakers on YouTube.

1.) Spirit of Matsu

  • Filmmaker: Tom Shu (me)
  • Equipment Used: Sony a6500 with Sigma 16mm f1.4 DC DN
  • What to Pay Attention To: I included this example to show you just how good the slow-motion can be on this camera even in low light conditions. As you’ll see throughout this film, there are multiple scenes where I’m shooting at night in 120 FPS and the results are pretty good.

 

2.) Sony a6500 Cinematic: Cuba

  • Filmmaker: Andy To
  • Equipment Used: Sony a6500. Lens information not provided.
  • What to Pay Attention To: I included this example because I liked how Andy combines the slow-motion footage and real-time footage shot on the camera to tell his story. It gives nice pacing to the film and allowed me to fully experience the sights and sounds of Cuba. When you’re able to shoot in slow motion to add a cinematic flair, it’s easy to shoot everything in slow motion. This film by Andy shows why you shouldn’t do that and why you should mix up footage shot at slow motion and real-time frame rates.

 

3.) Sony a6500 Slow Motion 120 FPS &4k Sample Film

  • Filmmaker: Ben Ruef
  • Equipment Used: Sony a6500, Sony 16-70 f4, Sony FE 70-300
  • What to Pay Attention To: This is a great short test footage film that shows what the slow-motion and 4k capabilities of the camera can do. All slow-motion footage in this film is shot at 1080p/120 FPS and real-time video is shot at 4k/24 FPS.

 

10 Tips for the Shooting the Best Slow Motion Footage

Slow-motion already makes whatever you are shooting more cinematic, but there are some additional things you can do to make your footage EVEN more cinematic too!

Here are 10 of my favorite tips and techniques to get the most out of the slow-motion footage captured from this camera.

1.) Use the 180-degree rule. In other words, make sure to keep your shutter speed is at least double your frame rate. For example, if you’re shooting at 60 FPS, your shutter speed should be at 1/125. If you’re shooting at 120 FPS, your shutter speed should be at 1/250, and so on. This was one of the things I always forgot to do when I first started filmmaking and it ruined some otherwise great footage I shot.

2.) Purchase a good quality variable ND filter. This will allow you to adjust how much light enters your camera on the fly when you are shooting at the widest apertures. I’ve tried a few, but the one I like the best value is this variable ND from Tiffen, It’s more expensive than other variable ND filters, but the wider design of the glass portion allows you to adjust it much easier than others.

3.) When you think you are close enough to the subject you are filming, get another one or two steps closer.

4.) To get a cool zoom-in effect on a specific subject, focus on the subject manually first, hold for 1 second, and pull the camera back towards your chest with a twist. Then in post-production, reverse the clip.

5.) An easy way to get a more cinematic look is to shoot in a flat picture profile and color grade the footage in post. My favorite picture profile to shoot with is the Matt Flat Picture Profile, which you can find here on his website. All you need to do to shoot in this profile are:

  • Reset PP8 to default.
  • Change the Gamma from SLOG3 to CINE4
  • You can find the Picture Profile setting in the Camera 1 tab in submenu 11 of 14

6.) A good way to stabilize the camera if you’re going to be shooting handheld is to add a battery grip to the camera. My favorite one is this one from Meike, which is much cheaper than the official Sony battery grip. After 2 full years using this camera to shoot slow motion in all sorts of conditions, this is honestly one of my favorite accessories I have purchased.

7.) Use some sort of stabilizer for extra smooth footage. If you can’t afford a gimbal, you can also wear roller blades, hop on a skateboard, or place the camera on a towel on a flat surface and pull it. There are various ways to stabilize your footage so use your imagination! If you want some more ideas here is the cool YouTube video I was inspired by.

8.) Another way to get smooth footage, without the artificially smooth look that you get with an electronic gimbal is to use a camera cage with a top handle. By using this you will allow the camera to rest in your hand during camera movements which feel more natural. Your arms are also less tense which will give you smoother footage. I got this SmallRig Cage + Top Handle combo and it has worked pretty well so far.

9.) If you are shooting in low light conditions, shoot at 60fps instead of 120fps. This will let in more light as you’ll be able to use a shutter speed of 1/120 instead of 1/250 and will still give you a nice slow-motion look.

10.) Think about what you’re shooting before shooting. Inanimate objects such as buildings, statues, and building interiors do not need to be shot in slow motion. Since these objects do not move, you won’t see any benefits from shooting them in slow motion.

Conclusion

The slow-motion capabilities of the Sony a6500 are one of the most impressive features of the camera and I use it on almost every project I work on.

For such a small camera, the customizable options, and the quality of the slow-motion footage you get is pretty mind-blowing.

Although setting up the camera for slow-motion takes a little bit of time, once you do have your camera set up, you’ll be able to fly between the different settings without even thinking about it.

If you don’t want to use editing software to interpret your slow-motion footage, you even have the flexibility of shooting slow motion using the camera’s built-in S&Q mode.

In any case, you’ll find which modes and settings work best for your workflow once you get going.

Now that you’re armed with this information on how to use slow motion with the a6500, get out there and start filming!

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6 comments

abdulrazak ck February 22, 2020 - 12:42 am

Sir,
thanks a lot your article more helpful
Any different shoot in NTSC format in 120fps and PAL 120fps, i mean quality

Reply
Tom Shu February 23, 2020 - 12:08 am

You’re welcome and thanks for reading! Yes, the quality should be the same. The frame rates you’ll have available will be different though.

Reply
jalan pelesiran April 30, 2020 - 10:03 pm

thanks sir abaut your article, which is better the results of the video using slomotion directly on Sony 6500 or edited through a computer?

Reply
Tom Shu April 30, 2020 - 10:33 pm

Hi Jalan – thanks for your question. You will get better image quality if you shoot at a slow-motion frame rate and then edit it in your camera. Of course, this will take more time. So, if you’re just doing something casual then shooting slow-motion directly in-camera would work too.

Reply
Justin July 19, 2020 - 2:43 pm

Hi Tom this is a very helpful article. In your tip list, #10 seems obvious. I curious as to how you would go about getting that slight camera motion with otherwise still shots. (There are plenty of examples in the “Cuba” video). I know its possible with video editing but it doesn’t seem natural. I’m guessing those shots must be done with higher frame rate and then slowed down, and then hope you filmed something not too jarring?

Thanks for any help!!

Reply
Tom Shu July 20, 2020 - 12:43 am

Hi Justin! Thanks for your question. The easiest way I found to get those slight movements when shooting in normal speed is to hold the camera close to my chest with my elbows locked to my sides. Then I lunge from the left to the right or from the right to the left depending on what way I want the motion to be. It looks funny, but it works pretty well. If there are any minor jitters in the footage, I’ll then use the warp stabilizer in Adobe Premiere to smooth it out even more. You’re right about the higher frame rate too. If you shoot in a high frame rate like 60 FPS or 120 FPS, you can do this motion much quicker and then slow the footage down in post for some nice cinematic movement. Another way is to hold the camera close to your chest, lock your elbows to your side and then fall forward and catch yourself before you fall. This can give you a nice inward movement after slowing the footage down. Honestly, when you slow the footage down to 120 FPS, there is a lot of movement you can get away with and still get cinematic looking footage.

I hope this information helps and let me know if you have any other questions!
Tom

Reply

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