5 Tips for Working in High Frame Rates

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

Do you know how to light when shooting at up to 80,000 frames per second?
Learn from Matt Drake and his DP Matt Novello, the team behind Bullet Theory Films. They recently shot a commercial for Sinter Fire Bullets’ frangible ammo. The team wanted to avoid using CGI effects, so they chose to shoot with the Phantom v711 at extremely high frame rates (up to 80,000 fps) to capture the live bullets.


1.) Camera Choice:
Choosing the right tool for the job is vital. There are many high-speed camera systems available on the market today, each come with their own pros and cons, so choose one that is capable of capturing your vision and works within your budget. Factors involved in choosing the right camera should be dictated by its frame rate capabilities in relation to sensor resolution and light sensitivity.

2.) Optics:
The faster a lens the better is a good general rule. An extra stop or too can sometimes be the difference in pulling off a high speed shot, especially when losing light outdoors or working in ultra high frame rates. Some of the newer digital cinema lenses have very sharp/crisp characteristics which can help your image when working in ultra high frame rates and the resulting lower resolution.

Plan for coverage... the best results are often in some of the overlooked details or what occurs after “the event.” Macro lenses and Probe lenses are some examples of valuable tools that can capture those nuances or details buried in a wider frame.

3.) Environment:
Will you be shooting daylight exteriors and working with natural light or interior where you will need to order lights? If your shoot is exterior make sure you check the weather in advance for overcast/cloudy skies and plan accordingly. Grip Equipment, such as reflectors and mirrors will help boost light levels dramatically. Additionally, plan to keep your camera cool- direct sunlight and high temperatures can plague today’s digital camera systems.

4.) Lighting:
High speed cameras require large amounts of light... consider this: shooting at just 1000fps vs. 24fps requires over 5x more light! If you decide to shoot an Interior location, there are many options for illumination on the market today that can suit your project. When working with traditional Tungsten sources, it is recommended to stay above 2K fixtures, as frame rates north of 120fps will register the filament dimming & cooling in between a 60hz power cycle. Some new advancements in flicker free ballasts have improved HMI performance dramatically, however as a general rule it is good to avoid these sources as they tend to deliver mixed results and flicker in higher frame rates.

LED and Plasma lights provide a consistent, flicker free light source capable of achieving high frame rates while staying cool to the touch, and more importantly, not melting your subject!! Even more impressive is that you can plug them into a wall outlet and eliminate the need for a generator. Check out Hive Lighting for the newest in plasma light technology.

5.) Work Flow:
Digital high-speed filming can be data intensive and most of the cameras on the market deliver a RAW file format. Having a well-organized data workflow and qualified personnel to deal with the camera and footage onset is also key in saving your production money and prevent potential down time. The majority of rental houses recommend that their hi-speed camera systems go out with a qualified hi-speed Tech or savvy DIT.

Video and content couresy of Bullet Theory Films
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