Film at the Speed of Light

I recently watched a ted talk by a guy who’d made a special film camera…. A very, very, very, special film camera.

The standard film/video camera that we shoot everything on right now basically records between 24 and 30 frames a second.  A specialist, highly expensive slow motion camera might run you 1000 frames per second (if you can stump up the cash to hire one with all the rigmarole that involves), that’s where those lovely super slow-motion shots you see in the tennis,  golf or formula one come from.

The camera made by Ramesh Raskar and his MIT team is a bit different to that… well, more than a bit actually. The femto-photography camera shoots at a mind-busting (and I’m sure wallet-bursting) 1000,000,000,000,000 frames per second, yes 1 TRILLION.

I’m not usually a number-junkie but that’s a number so big it’s impossible to really get a grip on. Suffice it to say that it would take a week to watch the blinking of an eye, it’s so ball-bogglingly arse-clenchingly fast that you can actually film light, yes light itself, travelling in slow motion.

I don’t know about anyone else but that absolutely blew my mind. I was so excited to see what happened when you looked at light standing still I nearly had an accident. Unfortunately, the film the MIT lab produced (they clearly should have employed Evidently to help them do it) is a little underwhelming, see below for yourselves. I could have done that in after effects… or with an anglepoise lamp.

However, it still speaks to me, it’s a representation of what we can do with film. The sky’s the limit, technology is changing so fast and so far that really we’re only limited by what we can come up with. If we can’t do it now we’ll be able to pretty soon anyway, so let your minds run free. Go on, make a 400 hour epic about a fly beating its wings…once.