Hi Speed Camera Test

I am having a lot of fun up in New Hampshire testing out a high speed camera. The camera is not very easy to shoot with, no viewfinder, very shallow depth of field and requires a lot of light. Plus, you must have a laptop connected to it at all times! But I love a good challenge so I am going to shoot a few things for my website.

My friend, Matt, at Fastec Imaging, is letting me play with one of the high speed cube cameras that were used on the Discovery television show “Time Warp“. I am not here to sell these cameras, just to share my first impressions shooting in the world of high frame rates. Also, everything looks so damn awesome in super slow motion!

I will be using the camera to shoot a short downhill mountain biking film this weekend. I will be working with a few talented riders knifing berms, dusting the track, ripping down rocky terrain and jumping full suspension mountain bikes. I have shot MTB films before, but never like this with hi speed capture. I am so stoked to have the opportunity to use this Fastec Imaging camera this weekend shooting a sport I love.

It will be tricky dragging a laptop computer up the hill and trying to figure out how to power all this stuff in the field, but that is what this test day was for! Thanks to Eric Kessler at Kessler Crane for the carbon fiber sticks and the battery system.

Hi Speed Camera Test

My buddy Dave, lives in New Hampshire and he is a big fan of lacrosse. He played in college and now his son Dylan is into the sport. I figured that capturing a single high speed lacrosse move from a few different angles would make for a nice test. I needed to see how shallow the DOF would be in different lighting conditions. I also wanted to make sure that my power system for the camera (using a battery and inverter) would provide enough juice for a full day on the mountain. Then, later in post, I needed to understand how to edit the content.

Dave and I started late in the afternoon talking about the four shots in the “lacrosse shot” sequence. We were running low on daylight! The shots we decided on were: a wide shot of Dave, tight shot of Dave, shot looking into the goal (over Dave’s shoulder) and a shot from behind the net (ball fired at camera). It took only one or two takes to get the first three shots. The final shot was tricky because it required a skill shot with great accuracy for Dave to hit a certain spot in the net. I setup on sticks behind the goal and made sure the lacrosse ball could not actually hit the cameras. I also made the crazy attempt to “rip” focus to follow the ball from the stick strings to the net strings. Very difficult to pull off in .25 seconds, but we got it after about 15 shots!

Hi Speed Camera Test

The Fastec Imaging camera did not have a model number, I will find out what it is later. I really don’t care, it looks like it was pieced together from spare parts! I only care what the little silver box can do. Also, I do not know the price of this system. Remember, I am just playing with this thing! Check out the Fastec Imaging website for more information.

I used all Nikon old lenses. The same lenses I used on the RED ONE and with my EX! and Letus Ultimate. They worked very well and the focal length matched up too.

Hi Speed Camera Test

Surprisingly, I really like this camera and the workflow. It was missing some important things, however. I must use the laptop for my viewfinder, I knew that going in. But the camera and the software (made by a third party) worked perfectly. Nothing crashed the entire test day. I was able to watch the 718 FPS footy before rendering to an uncompressed .AVI file in real time. The render time was less than thirty second when I chose to keep a shot. When editing, I just dragged the AVI files into Final Cut Pro and rendered them on the timeline as ProRes 422. Not a big deal.

Why 718 frames per second? Because that is the fastest frame rate this camera can shoot in 720p. It does shoot higher than 718 FPS, but the resolution drops off. I do not plan to test that out this weekend.

Hi Speed Camera Test

Check out this 720p downloadable .AVI file of the WD 40 fireball. Don’t try this at home!

  WD 40 Fireball (812.9 MiB, 660 hits)

A bit more info on the camera:

This camera body is all controlled by the laptop. White balance, Frame rate, record trigger, and shutter. The camera has built in RAM memory for the many frame capture. I do not know the buffer size, only that it runs about 13 seconds in a loop. You pull this 13 second “high speed event” data off the solid state internal memory to render it down to an AVI in the computer. Only PCs, no support for mac that I know of.

It does not shoot 2k or 3k or even 1080p. But 720p is enough for me. Remember, I work in broadcast tv. We deal with 720p content all the time. If the price is right to purchase a high speed camera at the 720p level, I think it would sell well. I wish I had the option to shoot up to 2000 FPS for special occasions tho. And maybe make the thing with a viewfinder!?

Fastec Imaging may have a refined version of this camera coming out in the future. I am going to try to blog about it if it becomes available. I don’t know about you, but I am sick of waiting for the RED SCARLET.