Capturing epic events in slow-motion has been a YouTube staple for years and years, especially as video quality improved and the visual of a water balloon exploding or an egg shattering became something beautiful to behold. But it was never something you’d imagine working in a narrative sense — which is why the Revision3-distributed series Distort, produced and hosted by David Prager and Mauricio Balvanera promises to be intriguing.
Launching on Thursday, Distort combines slow-motion photography — capturing everything from bike tricks to champagne bottles popping open at 400 to 7,500 frames per second — with unique personalities behind the slow-motion, as well as the science behind it. In two episodes made available for preview, San Francisco artist Doctor Popular demonstrates his award-winning yo-yo skills, and Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley explains the physics behind his aerial moves.
The emphasis on personality is deliberate, according to Prager via phone, who compared it to “the YouTube formula of authentic personality.”
“Structurally, we want to talk to people who are experts in a field — make it more about them than the slow-motion itself,” Balvanera said. “Slow-mo is the eye candy, but hopefully the core of the episode is the personal story of the people who are on the show.”
That eye candy, however, is a major selling point for the series. Using a variety of cameras including the Phantom Flex, Prager and Balvanera were able to shoot high-resolution video at extremely high frame rates. “At 2,500 frames per second, that’s where the magic of the Phantom Plex really happens,” Balvanera said. “Things that happen in the fraction of a second can stretch out to two minutes — that’s the point where we can really play with time.”
Another fun element of Distort is that thanks to its title, the show is not limited to just slow-motion. “What I like about choosing the name Distort is that we don’t always have to use high-speed cameras. We could zoom in on something you wouldn’t normally be able to see because it’s too small, or show something in time-lapse,” Prager said.
It’s no coincidence that Revision3 will be distributing Distort through its wide array of channels, as both Prager and Balvanera used to work there until recently — Prager, in fact, was a co-founder who worked there for seven years. “I was having a great time at Revision3, but the Discovery sale was good catalyst to take a step back and figure out what I wanted to do next,” he said.
Most Revision3 shows are either produced in-house or by third-party companies, but Distort has a unique relationship with the distributor — while Prager put up the funding for the original pilot, going forward Distort will be a co-production between Rev3/Discovery and Prager and Balvanera. This means that both sides are, in Prager’s words, “incentivized” to make the show the best it can be.
“We could have released this independently, but it made sense to partner with an existing machine. Stepping away from Revision3 means we get to flex our creative muscles and leave the distribution side to them,” Balvanera added.