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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 10:01 AM CDT

Freeze Frames

High-speed video cameras find their way into numerous new applications
bullet going through an orange
© Pulse Photonics Ltd.
A single high-speed video frame of a bullet going through an orange making the otherwise imperceptible, visible.
evolution of hot vapor and debris
© Prof. P.H. Schultz, Brown University/Geological Sciences (Providence R.I.) and NASA/Ames Research Center (Moffett Field Calif.
The evolution of hot vapor and debris (ejecta) being launched out of an impact crater.
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By Lee J. Nelson
Contributing Editor

Most Advanced Imaging readers easily can recall stop-action images of a speeding bullet or the splash of a drop of milk. Those memorable scenes were made by highly specialized video cameras that acquired hundreds—if not thousands—of frames per second (fps) to freeze the action.

As we first explored in February 2007, high-speed video was finding its way into previously unimagined applications: aerospace, automotive, ballistics, fast-flow visualization, hyper-velocity impact and materials testing, particle velocimetry, process dynamics, spray assay, short-time physics, vibration analysis and infotainment. The latter is particularly timely with the advent of this Summer's XXIX Olympiad in Beijing. So, we take a look at the latest offerings from a select cross-section of suppliers.

Fastec Imaging Corp. (San Diego, Calif.) promotes their portable, battery-operated (four D-cells) TroubleShooter family of high-speed cameras for factory production lines, laboratory and field-based crash analysis, sports training and weapons testing. TroubleShooter cameras record 1.3 megapixels at up to 500 fps. At reduced resolution, they can capture 16,000 fps, save the video to a compact FlashCard and communicate—via built-in USB 2.0 port —with a laptop PC. All TroubleShooter cameras include Fastec Imaging's Motion Measure software suite for managing playback parameters and calculating such metrics as acceleration and velocity, while CamLink control software archives video as AVI files.

For animation, biometrics, motion studies, vehicle dynamics and impact testing and sports medicine, HSC-250X2 (JC Labs, Inc., La Honda, Calif.) captures from 60 to 250 fps in RS-170-compatible format. Camera speed is established either by external signals (RS-170 horizontal drive and vertical reset) or by default settings. Externally supplied signals permit multiple cameras to be concatenated and simplify support for numerous vendors' frame grabbers. An electronic shutter enables research on luminous or brightly lit objects such as arcs or flames which cannot be imaged with stroboscopic illumination. But, for any application necessitating a strobe, HSC-250X2 can generate the synchronization. Two RS-170 analog outputs (with separate line drivers) underpin a flexible interface for display and storage devices. They can be digitized directly from the camera, sent via coaxial cable or transmitted over radio frequencies for exceedingly long distance requirements.

Lumemera Corp.'s (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) Lm085 mini-CMOS USB camera is designed for industrial apps that commonly dictate high-contrast ambient lighting, tight space constraints and rugged environmental conditions. An ultra-wide dynamic range, small form-fit factor and robust mechanicals make Lm085 an ideal choice for settings where there is sustained vibration, fatigue and potential stress from conveyor lines, mechanical arms, mobile platforms or gantries.

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