Director Henry Cowling filmed out of the window of a moving train for the seven seconds it takes to pass through Ravenscourt Park station in London – the result is a one-take slow motion video for band SixToes…
Inspired by a YouTube clip called Glide2 by StrayLight, Cowling’s film (a Unit9 production) involved 40 volunteers, a Photron BC-2 camera, and generated plenty of strange looks from fellow passengers, not to mention a brief brush with confused London Underground staff.
To organise the filming, Cowling set up a Facebook page for a flashmob event set to take place in west London. The band also asked friends and fans to sign-up for the event, but the precise details were kept secret.
“Everyone showed up in Hammersmith station at 8.30am on a miserable Sunday morning in February,” Cowling explains. “We all got into costume and then practiced the actions by everyone lining up along a pavement, while I rang past with a camcorder shouting action and pretending to be the train.
“Then all the volunteers got on the tube to Ravenscourt Park while I stayed at Hammersmith with the camera operator and DP. Once we had word that everyone was roughly in position on the platform of Ravenscourt, we got on the next Piccadilly line train, which goes straight through the station at high-speed on its way to Acton Town. The last thing I did as we were getting on the train was to send a text message letting the people in the platform know we were coming.
“The train took seven seconds to pass through the station. It’s pure luck that everyone performed their actions well and on cue. We attempted another take coming back the other way from Hammersmith, but the station guards came out onto the platform right in the middle of this and told us to leave.
“The scariest thing about the day was that the camera – a Photron BC-2 – is usually used for military testing and as a result looks… rather bomb-like. To hit record I actually had a cable leading from the camera with a big red button, while the power cables led to the operator’s backpack. Needless to say we got some very suspicious looks!”
Cowling’s footage, replayed at 500 frames a second means that the final video runs to around three-and-a-half minutes.
Low Guns, written and performed by SixToes. A unit9 production. Director: H Cowling. DoP: Carl Burke. AD: Richard Rowe. Cam Op: Edward Edwards. Online Editor: Sarah Zappon. Inspired by StrayLight, Glide2. Cowling thanks Michelle Craig, Patt Foad, Anne Carruthers and everyone who helped out and took part.
The aborted second take
The volunteers wait at Hammersmith tube station