Data + Design Project

Slow Motion: Capturing Action Like Never Before

Monday 03.26.2012 , Posted by
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:THE INCREDIBLE HUMAN SERIES:      click here to see more from the series

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All the wildest sports, the fastest moving objects, the most intricate parts of science, seem to have been captured in beautiful quality over the years. Thanks to slow motion video technology we have seen time slowed down to a crawl, showcasing the most amazing things in a kind of clarity that cannot be seen at full speed: from a speeding bullet to a monstrous wave at Teahupoo, It’s as if slowing things down gives us the godlike ability to see even the most intricate of details. This technology has been around for many years, but recently it has become far more affordable, and as a result, many more visuals from athletes to animals have been captured like never before. What can be thanked for such advances? The Phantom HD camera is largely the culprit.

While still out of reach for average hobbyist looking to make some slow motion vignettes, more and more production companies keep the Phantom in their arsenal of equipment… and it’s for good reason. Watching a big wave surfer bail out is cool, but watching a big wave surfer bail in slow-mo redefines what it means to be gobbled up by thousands of tons of water.

What makes a camera slo-mo? According to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), high speed photography is defined as a camera capable of 128 frames per second or greater.  For the Phantom, that is child’s play, with capability of capturing 1500 frames per second in high definition. So what difference does it make? You can go into iMovie and create slow motion effects on your own, right?  Not exactly.  On your home editing system with your consumer camera, best case scenario, you will get 60 fps from the camera. So if you slow that down to standard 30fps for television when you edit, you only get a 50% reduction in speed. Of course the footage can be slowed down as much as you want, but you are doing it artificially, because the camera did not actually capture enough frames.

The real benefit to these cameras is their incredible ability to capture so many frames of one single action. It does not just slow things down, it increases clarity of movements which happen too fast for our eyes to see or our brains to comprehend. It is the Phantom HD and the other new camera technologies that allow us to see just how incredible humans are and the fantastic, unseen ways we interact with the world.  Below is a collection of some great slow motion videos, have a look (the big wave video at Teahupoo in Tahiti below is especially breathtaking).

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Steven Shoppman

Written by Steven Shoppman



Steven Shoppman is a contributor to The Visual News and an avid explorer. In 2009 he received the honor of "Adventurer of the Year" by National Geographic Adventure Magazine for his expedition driving two trucks around the world. The expedition was named "The World by Road" He continues to plan new adventures and you can visit his personal website to learn more about him at www.stevenshoppman.com.

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