First of all, please do not try anything you see in the video above at home. We took precautions while shooting the more dangerous Phantom experiments. We made sure people were at a safe distance, we had fire extinguishers and the camera was protected by Lexan blast shields.
I was hired by Cox Communications in Rhode Island to shoot elements for a television ad campaign. The client wanted to use the Phantom Flex to capture high speed objects in great detail. Some of the items included slowing down a bullet, putting stuff in a blender, flying dogs, and glass breaking.
Unfortunately, I cannot show the footage that is being used in the ad campaign! The video above was some Flex footage we shot for fun.
We rented the Phantom Flex from Rule Boston Camera and also got our hands on a Zeiss super speed prime kit and an Angenieux 25mm-250mm t3.9 cine zoom lens. I planned on using the primes indoors and the zoom outside in broad daylight.
This is the same client that rented the Phantom in Las Vegas for table tennis. While working that gig, I decided not to sleep one night to shoot “Locked in a Vegas Hotel Room with the Phantom Flex”. So far, the video has over 2 million hits on Vimeo.
The public seems to be into seeing normal everyday stuff, slowed down to the point that you can see things that are invisible to the human eye. “The Slow Mo Guys” on youtube are getting a ton of hits posting videos shot with Phantom cameras. Take a look at this excellent example featuring droplet collisions.
We had the Flex for two days and only really need one to get all the shots required for the client. The extra rental time went straight into experimentation. What would you do and shoot if you had a Phantom for an entire day? What would you blow up?
John and Anthony from Cox were just as excited as I was to capture everyday objects in high speed with the Flex. We put together a group of people from Kettle Bottom Productions to shoot on a farm in Rhode Island. We used the Kettle Bottom boys to record and document behind the scenes and take photographs of our adventure with the Phantom. John took a bunch of production stills as well. I will be editing a short BTS video blog soon. Keep an eye on this page. Thanks to everyone involved for their hard work.
Ty, Tommy, George, Robb, Jay and Nick from the production company were asking me a bunch of questions about shooting high speed. They all had ideas on what would look cool at 5000 FPS. Some of the suggestions were a bit dangerous!
During our tests, we realized very quickly that not everything that you expect to look insane in slow motion, actually does. We tossed stuff into a blender to “see if it blends” and we quickly got sick of it! We found that natural things, like a dog running or jumping, looked amazing. If we do this again, we will do much more of that for sure.
The Phantom Flex preformed extremely well in the run-and-gun situations we put it through. We did not use any light or bounce cards while shooting outside. I did not have a matte box or follow focus on the front of the lens. I treated the camera like an ENG news camera. It is incredible that the Flex can be used this way and capture 5500 frames per second under normal television lighting. You can bring back so much great looking footage, in very little time.
To power the camera we used the 560 watt hour 24 volt Anton Bauer VCLX batteries. This is a great power source for use in the field and it helps to keep the Phantom moving from place to place. The battery powered the camera for nearly 3 hours on a single charge!
I had a Sony HDVF-30 color LCD viewfinder on the Flex, but I used a SmallHD DP-6 HDSDI monitor powered by Canon DSLR batteries while shooting. It also helped when playing back the high speed footage so that the spectators could be wowed by the power of the Phantom.
I used a Vinten Vision 10 AS tripod to support the heavy camera and also used a 5 foot Kessler CineSlider to add dolly movement. Since I was shooting between 2500 and 5500 frames per second, I had to rip the Phantom down the slider!
Big thanks to my buddy TJ for letting me smash stuff in his driveway. I think he could have broken light bulbs all day!
We spent some time shooting in front of a green screen and white backgrounds in the Cox Rhode Island studios. I was very surprised that the Flex did not require a bunch of extra lights to shoot at frame rates of around 2500. We also did not have a flicker problem, even with the fluorescent studio lights mounted to the overhead grid. We used a few Zylight Z90 LEDs to add a bit more light. To protect the lens, we used a piece of plexi glass.
The workflow from the Phantom was easy. I did not deal at all with the .cine files on the mags. I played the footage real time off the camera and used a AJA KiPro recorder to capture 1080p via HDSDI. I archived all the files in Pro Res 422 (HQ).
I edited all of these experimental high speed clips together and did most of the foley sound myself. The music is from the film “Inception” and was composed by Hans Zimmer. It is an excellent soundtrack and it was really fun the cut the Flex footage to it. Most of the high speed video was shot at 1080p. This gave me a bit of “digital zooming” freedom in post because my final output was for the web at 720p.
During the explosions, I managed to snap zoom during the high speed event using the Angenieux 25mm-250mm zoom. We had only one change to get it, and for both fireballs, the zooming was done optically! I yelled, “3, 2, 1…” then ripped the zoom manually.
Here are a few more stills from “The Phantom Experiment”…