Seven seconds on a station platform

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

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

  • Brilliant. I’d also be interested to see the knackered second take with added tube staff!

  • Nice idea but either youtube can’t cope with the quality or the wrong camera was used, if you put it on full screen it hurts the eyes.

    No question it was inspired by StrayLightUK but what about Paul Bryan as well?

    If this was the first time I’d ever seen anything like this I’d be much more impressed.

  • Anonymous

    (comment deleted by moderator)

  • Beautiful, if a little jittery.

  • Excellent idea, and beautifully executed!

  • StrayLightUK is more impressive and genuine – testing and sharing the results.
    I’m sure it’s unintentional, but this comes off as more of a staged copy trying to take credit for the technique.
    Bad lighting too… though it could just be the compression.

  • Bex

    I think this is briliant – far more interesting than just a train platform and amazing that you managed to get all those people there on basically no budget. It’s hardly a staged copy…. isn’t all art about borrowing ideas anyway?

  • Brill, really captivating!

  • Trish

    It’s just amazing! Deceptively peaceful yet bursting with ideas – I wonder how you managed to co-ordinate it all? Brilliant imagination – well done!

  • Don’t get me wrong, art is all about using other work as inspiration.

    My reasoning is the way they make a point of how it was made at the very start – not only does it dissolve the wonder of how it was done for the audience, but it’s almost like they are looking for a pat on the back…

    Personally, I find the observation of real people going about their business (StrayLightUK) more interesting than the staged actors.

  • @Trish Haha that’s my mum! thanks mum

  • @giant squib
    yeah I think that’s a fair point, we just thought it was more interesting if people knew how it was done.
    Yeah we like straylight’s too, obviously 😉

  • Really great video.

    I’d agree with Giant Squib that the inspiration does come from StrayLight, but I’d say that these guys have taken it one step further with a killer sound track and the interesting characters that you see along the platform.

    The Straylight shot is a bit wider as well and loses a bit of the intensity that this video has. I’d be really interested in seeing a tighter shot with a music bed under the Straylight video.

  • Impressive – but what a shame Henry didn’t get permssion from the London Underground Film Office.

    It would have saved interjection and undue worry from station staff (who have enough responsibility already), the health and saftey aspect would have been covered – but most of all he’s made it difficult for others wanting to legimately film on the network :(


  • Great use of on-the-hoof cinematography! Loved it.

  • Darcy Fitzpatrick

    I wonder what the shutter speed was for this, and if it’s the cause for the jittery motion that this shot exhibits?

    Great artists steal, for sure, but it’s too bad they didn’t take this just a little bit further away from the Straylight video’s concept. Like, say, off a subway platform. You could still do a high speed passby shot with choreographed action and have it take place somewhere else entirely.

    I think it will be interesting to see where people take this concept as time goes on. I’ll bet there will be all kinds of amazingly creative applications, the likes of which might not even harken back to the Straylight video at all.

  • Oh, they stole it! Oh no, they didn’t! Oh yes, they did!

    Who cares? Either it’s good or it isn’t. Enough with the grudging hat already.