High-speed Video for Slow Motion

The filmmaking term for shooting slow-motion video (or high-speed video) is over-cranking. Technology has progressed a lot since the days of film, and the realm of high-speed filmmaking has taken on new dimensions; there are a wide range of options for everyone from the broadcast professional to the hobbyist.

An Example

One of my favorite shows that use high-speed filmmaking is the Discovery channel show “Time-Warp.” The show often takes a behind-the-scenes look at some of the many things you can slow down. For an episode on water, they used the setup of still photographer Martin Waugh of Liquid Sculpture and showed him what they can do with high-speed video. The results are amazing!

Professional High-end Equipment

The key to getting amazing high-speed video is using a high-quality camera that can take extremely fast pictures. Just as in macro video, you’ll also need a lot of light. However, while macro video needed increased light so that it could decrease the aperture size (giving a high depth of field), now we need to decrease the shutter speed so that we can take thousands of frames per second.

There are two major groups of high-speed cameras. The first are those designed for industrial purposes. Vision Research has a wide range of models that can be used for all sorts of applications, such as analyzing automotive crashes and examining NASA launches. The second application of high-speed cameras is for broadcast purposes. Unless you plan to use these cameras every day, you’ll probably want to rent one. Plan to budget anywhere from 1000 to 3000 USD per day, including a technician to help operate it.

Here are some options:

Photron cameras SA1, SA3 and Fastcam BC2

fastcam-bc2Photron makes several cameras, such as the SA1 (used for Timewarp), SA3, SA5, and the Fastcam BC2. They are about 1000 to 2000 USD to rent by the day and about 100,000 USD to buy. These cameras are capable of filming a bullet coming out of a gun or a water balloon popping at 20,000 frames per second (fps). The exact specs on these sorts of cameras change from year to year, so we’ll leave finding out the specifics to your Google searches.

Phantom Flex

flex2The Phantom Flex is Vision Research’s top-of-the-line camera. It seems to have slightly slower high-speed shooting than the Photron cameras but are still a top of the line slow-motion camera manufacturer.


Entry-level Equipment

For those that would like to add a high-speed shot into their films without the expense, there are a few entry-level high-speed cameras that we’ve found many YouTube filmmakers using. For example:

Sony FS700 series

With a purchase price of about 8000 USD, the Sony FS700 is a bit more of a prosumer slow-motion camera. It shoots up to 900 fps at 1920×1080 HD though. It’s a great camera for mixed shooting as it can also serve as your main camera on a shoot.

Casio High-Speed EX-f1

Casio-1This camera is fairly prosumer with a price tag of around 2800 USD. The real benefit of this camera is quality high-speed recording on a tiny camera. Users can select a recording speed of 300 fps, 600 fps, or 1200 fps. Resolution drops with the highest frame rates as follows: 512 x 384 (300 fps), 432 x 192 (600 fps), 336 x 96 (1200 fps).

Casio High-Speed Exilim EX-FC100

ex1On the affordable end of the spectrum is the Casio High-Speed Exilim EX-FC100. The image quality isn’t great, but at less than 300 USD you can hardly beat it. The best features are that it shoots 210 fps and one-second 30 fps (at 6 megapix) burst mode. In very low resolution, it will shoot 1000 fps.

Iphone / Gopro

Let’s not forget that both the new iPhones and new GoPros shoot some very high rates – up to 240 Fps.

Faking Slow Motion

If you don’t have a high end camera for slow motion, you can still get some amazing shots. You  just have to be careful how you shoot them. Here is a video we did on that subject.

More Information

Written by Rob Nelson

Rob is an ecologist from the University of Hawaii. He is the co-creator and director of Untamed Science. His goal is to create videos and content that are entertaining, accurate, and educational. When he's not making science content, he races whitewater kayaks and works on Stone Age Man.

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