I’m working on a short video promoting my transfer business. I thought about the Bob Dylan video Subterranean Homesick Blues where he holds up cards with the lyrics. Yes, the technique has been used, but wait I thought. How about reversing a video clip so instead of the cards being dropped to the ground they fly into your hands from above and below.
Reversing a video clip is easy to do in most editing apps. In Sony Vegas just right click the clip and choose reverse. I shot a little test of myself throwing the cards up or down. The test results are pretty good. Instead of myself, I’ll use an 8 year old. I will post the video here when it’s finished.
Reversing a video clip is nothing new. One of the most famous reversed scenes in movies is the Swedish Book Store scene in the 1984 film Top Secret. Imagine the rehearsing and planning it took to film it in reverse. One of the gags is that running it backwards makes the dialog sound like a fake Swedish. And if you play the scene backwards, you will find all of the dialogue to be in English exactly the same as what is shown in the subtitles except for the title of the book Hillary asks for. The title she actually asks for is “Europe On 5 Quaaludes A Day.” That’s a hidden joke in the scene.
A lot of movie effects scenes are shot in reverse, but that’s a different intent because they are not saying – see this is reversed like the book store scene above. They are trying to fool you into seeing something that didn’t happen. For instance in The Wizard of Oz to show Dorothy’s house falling into the Land of Oz, a miniature house was dropped onto a sky painted onto a canvas placed flat on the stage floor. Then the film was reversed so it appear as if the house was falling from the sky and towards the camera.
Reverse motion is in fact a long standing special effect in cinematography whereby the action that is filmed ends up being shown backwards or time-reversed on screen.
Reverse motion can be used for comedy or it can be used to bring something back to life such as reversing a building collapsing.
Jean Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast (1946) shows an actor placing a piece of paper in a fire and then walking backwards. When the film was reversed, it appeared as though the character walked up to the fire and pulled the paper out of it. Cocteau used reverse motion so often in his films that critics ridiculed his overuse of it.
Another use of reverse motion is for helicopter shots which appear to precisely dolly into an object or scene. In reality this is very difficult because the final frame must be in focus and perfectly framed. What they do instead is to start on the object or scene and then pull away into the sky. Then the shot is reversed so that it ends with a perfectly framed and focused image.