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Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 09:49 AM CDT

High-speed Imaging in Harrowing Environments

TV show pushes limits of high-speed camera technology to capture images of ‘unseen world’
Figure 1: This grease fire, imaged with the Fastcam SA1, is a simulation of putting a frozen turkey into a deep fat fryer. We’re seeing a glass pot filled with hot oil when a half-cup of cold water is dropped into the oil, creating a violent grease fire explosion.
Discovery Channel
Figure 1: This grease fire, imaged with the Fastcam SA1, is a simulation of putting a frozen turkey into a deep fat fryer. We’re seeing a glass pot filled with hot oil when a half-cup of cold water is dropped into the oil, creating a violent grease fire explosion.
Figure 2: Spectacular high-speed footage of a fireworks sequence captured at 20,000 frames per second from 12 feet away by Photron’s Fastcam SA1.
Figure 2: Spectacular high-speed footage of a fireworks sequence captured at 20,000 frames per second from 12 feet away by Photron’s Fastcam SA1.
Figure 3: Fastcam SA1 and Fastcam SA2 selected to “star” in Discovery Channel’s Time Warp TV series.
Figure 3: Fastcam SA1 and Fastcam SA2 selected to “star” in Discovery Channel’s Time Warp TV series.
Figure 4: Fastcam MH4 from Photron features up to 4 tiny camera heads that can be strategically placed inside an automobile during crash testing.
Figure 4: Fastcam MH4 from Photron features up to 4 tiny camera heads that can be strategically placed inside an automobile during crash testing.
Figure 5: The side view of the car crash sequence with Rusty Height, Time Warp’s human crash test dummy (top). Photron’s MH4 camera is positioned on top of Rusty’s car roof to capture this slow-motion sequence (middle). The sequence in the bottom photo shows Rusty inside the vehicle as his automobile “t-bones” the other car.
Figure 5: The side view of the car crash sequence with Rusty Height, Time Warp’s human crash test dummy (top). Photron’s MH4 camera is positioned on top of Rusty’s car roof to capture this slow-motion sequence (middle). The sequence in the bottom photo shows Rusty inside the vehicle as his automobile “t-bones” the other car.
Figure 6: The Time Warp film crew readies the camera inside the ruggedized, black rectangular blast box.
Figure 6: The Time Warp film crew readies the camera inside the ruggedized, black rectangular blast box.
Figure 7: Time Warp’s Director of Photography, Wes Skiles is shown here holding the shoulder-mount modified Fastcam SA2.
Figure 7: Time Warp’s Director of Photography, Wes Skiles is shown here holding the shoulder-mount modified Fastcam SA2.
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For one segment, we wanted to see what happens inside of a firework. Since we knew that following a firework as it streaked across the sky was nearly impossible, we brought the firework down to the ground—well almost. With the help of pyrotechnic experts, we determined that we could explode the core of a firework safely from about 25 feet off the ground. We built a 25-foot pole with a small platform on top for our firework, and about 12 feet away from that platform we constructed a 25-foot steel tripod with a large platform for the SA-1 camera in its blast box. From that vantage point, we were able to film the ignition of a firework at 20,000 frames per second from 12 feet away. The result was a truly awesome shot (see Figure 2 – fireworks sequence).

Over the past few seasons of Time Warp, we have had our blast housings overtaken by the rushing of a 500-gallon water balloon, dented by an AK-47 round ricocheting off a minivan and we’ve even mistakenly dropped a toilet from a crane directly on top of one (don’t ask), but through it all, I’m happy to report, the cameras remained intact and with a little bit of triage here and there, they proved to be the workhorses we hoped they would be.

Our goal in bringing a high-speed imaging show to the air was not to merely shoot cool stuff with high-speed cameras, but to really cover these incredible events, to do them justice by pushing the limits of high-speed camera technology and combining creative minds with established broadcast know-how. Hopefully, the results speak for themselves. AI

Matt Kearney is Vice President of Tech Imaging Services (Salem, Mass.) and co-host of Discovery Channel’s Time Warp. He would like to extend special thanks to Discovery Channel for their permission to use stills and footage from the Time Warp television series. For more information, visit www.techimaging.com)



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