Thursday, 13 November 2014

Slow TV - Defining the boundaries

It may seem existentially odd to define something by what it is not, however, it is a necessary exercise sometimes to make things much clearer. Especially when it is as new a format as Slow TV linked by similar characteristics to material which is not completely the same. I appreciate it may come down to being pedantic, perhaps, though it helps to give definition. I would like to offer the below observations.

Slow TV:
  • is not looped material played repeatedly. The material in the loop may have qualities of Slow TV. It can be similar content played out over a long time but there will be obvious or subtle changes to that content which does not make different moments identical.
  • does not consist of timelapses, hyperlapses and changes in frame rates such as slow motions or. Slow TV does reveal something to the viewer which 'regular' TV does not, but does not use methods speed ups. These techniques do have their obvious aesthetics which reveal something usually unperceived and often beautiful, but they relate a different time frame than which was used in filming. 
  • does not use jump cuts; productions with a large budget, several cameras and reasonable crew will select the image which best suits the moment, but there will be no jump in the time of the event being portrayed.
  • is not sports events, long themed broadcasts, charity fund raising marathon broadcasts, royal or state events (weddings, funerals, anniversaries etc), rolling news channels. All of these happen, but do not use long held sequences from the same perspective. There will be near continuous commentary on such broadcasts.
  • usually does not rely on the need for continuous commentary when there is 'nothing' happening. In Slow TV, the view, the sound and the music (if selected) are enough; they are the subject which takes the viewer on the journey without being ‘presenter driven’. There may be times when there is a commentary but when it is said, it is said - no awkwardness of silence as you can get when a rolling news channel realises it has nothing to say mid-flow.
  • is not Slow Cinema. Slow TV is for, well, television - or in these days, other small screen devices. If you want to know more about Slow Cinema do visit this excellent blog, The Art(s) of Slow Cinema.
  • is not art for art's sake. Maybe. It may draw on artistic ambience but is not arty or abstract for the sake of it. Maybe. The Tokyo Reverse could be an exception. Andy Wahol’s films “Sleep” and “Empire” while having an aesthetic of Slow TV were neither for TV nor shown in real time. More here (content coming soon). 

Previously I had not included the Australian SlowTV (notice the brand contraction of of SlowTV into one word) channel as being Slow TV. I now include this – reasons being 

  • Slow TV is about content being shown in real time, no jumps. SlowTV’s content is real time without jumps. It allows the content to unfold. 
  • NRK produced the 24 hour lecture on significant aspects of Norway’s history in 1814, as well as 200 years in 200 minutes lecture. Both these match the SlowTV channel in their ethos. The Australian SlowTV channel posts "interviews, debates, conversations and public lectures about Australia's key political, social and cultural issues" - in full length - not reduced to 8 second soundbites as news media tends to. Hence the 'Slow' label.

Thanks to interaction with Alice Scheerer of for stimulating a think again on this last point.

This is a revision of what Slow TV is not; I was not entirely happy with the first version, which I have left in place here.

Slow Television -The Slow TV Blog


  1. Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. See the link below for more info.


    1. Thanks, Lee Woo - indeed gardening is fantastic, a teacher of patience, connection, watching things very closely.