Well, those kinds of higher frame rates still pretty much belong to the big guns. The Phantom Flex will give you 2,000 frames a second at ultra HD or 1,000 fps at 4K. It produces truly stunning images, but at a price that is beyond the reach of all but those with the biggest budgets. The camera retails at a cool £100,000 (I’ll have three please) with a daily hire out charge of around £3,000 (including lighting and a technician). IDT’s OS series cameras produce equally high quality images at a cheaper price, but you’re still talking tens of thousands.
So when I was asked recently if it would be possible to capture good quality footage at super slowmo frame rates on a limited budget my initial reaction was ‘no chance’.
But then I did some research and found the Sony RX10 MkIII. For the princely sum of £1,200 this remarkable little camera can shoot up to 960fps of full HD video. The quality is obviously not as good as the Phantom or IDT range, but for that price I was certainly up for putting it through its paces to see what it could do.
With increased frame rates and shutter speeds the image descends into darkness. Throwing tons of light at the subject helps, but it can’t be just any light, standard bulbs flicker, and the distracting blinking is picked up. Instead LEDs or lights such as Kinoflow’s Diva-Lite are required.
I wanted to explore whether it would be possible to get a passable image at 960fps with this comparatively affordable little camera. The subject matter was water droplets splashing against the floor of a wet room shower.
I squeezed as much lighting as possible into the tiny see through cubbyhole. I had two big Kinoflo’s. two Rotolights and three other LED lights. It was a snug fit and it required some careful placement to ensure that the equipment didn’t get soaked with water.
Even with all that light I had to push up the ISO to ensure the dark background tiles didn’t vanish into a black hole.
After some experimenting and tweaking of lighting positions and camera angles I finally got the best out of the camera and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the footage looked. The difference in the images between 480fps and 960 was huge. At 480 the droplets still look like water. At 960 they look like tiny bombs slowly exploding as they smash against the surface.
In the HFR setting the camera could only record for three seconds and it buffered in slow motion real time. But for the amount of grunt it was giving that was understandable and three seconds is plenty â€“ it equates to about 88 seconds when played back at 960fps.
The footage did still need to be perked up in post which created a bit of noise in the shadows which had to be removed, but overall, for that price point, the pictures were pretty good.
If recent technological developments are anything to go by, the quality of higher frame rate footage will only get better. Furthermore, as manufacturers try to entice hungry operators to spend money on new cameras, super slowmo frame rates are surely coming at lower price points.
It may still be a fair while before the likes of the GH5, FS7 and C200 match up to the super slow mo 20,000 plus fps of the higher end Phantoms, but I think it will happen in the distant future and I think slow motion will be ‘bang on trend’ for a while yet!