Behind the Scenes of a Super Slo-Mo Video Shoot
December 20, 2010

Behind the Scenes of a Super Slo-Mo Video Shoot

Reston, Va. – Ever wonder how those astounding slo-mo shots that make a broadcast or big-screen production jump off the screen are created? “That’s the million dollar question,” says Joel Holland, founder and CEO of Footage Firm. “The short answer is a lot of time, money, and expertise, matched with a bit of luck and plenty of fun.”
“Well, without geeking out too much, basically, you need to have a special camera, lights, and extensive staging setups,” Luke Miller, independent Director of Photography, elaborates. “For this particular collection we used Vision Research’s Phantom HD Gold camera; this allowed us to shoot 1920x1080 sized-frames at rates up to 1052 per second (fps), which gave us a lot of visual information.”

By a “lot of visual information” Miller is referring to the remarkable detail that makes super-slo-mo footage so visually compelling: shattered microfibers of glass dancing across time and space, visual evidence of the physics behind explosions and blazes, the same forces acting on agitated water and liquids in motion.
But how do you get the ideal lighting, focal point and composition for a shot of a television smashing to pieces, or an awesome fiery explosion?

“As for destroying the TVs, computer monitors, and other hardware,” Miller says, “there’s no ‘trick’ to that, we went through half-a-dozen TV sets to get the perfect shot. Similarly with the plane-glass windows, paint-throws, dropped objects, shattered items; that’s just trial-and-error, painstakingly setting your field of action, recording it, cleaning up the mess—wash, rinse, repeat. Actually, the clean up after each shot was probably the longest part of the production process.”

For the explosions and pyro, Miller adds: “At first we were talking about bringing in an expert. But then, like with so many things we do, we decided to take a stab at it ourselves. So we threw some stuff together using household products—gas, lighter fluid, gun powder—which, I cannot emphasize enough, I do not recommend to anyone in any way, shape, or form. Some of our gear, mainly C-stands and grip, didn’t make it out of this shoot. But it was, literally, a blast.”

Shooting at extremely high frame rates requires a lot more light than standard shooting. In this case, Miller used an array of Arri 5000w (5k) Tungstens in different configurations. And because the files created are so large, a digital data workflow had to be planned out beforehand. “We used Convergent Design’s nanoFlash recorder to capture each shot from the camera's buffer (280mbps 4:2:2), which eliminated the need for a Cinemag or tethering the camera to a laptop,” Miller explains.

The intermediary codec used to wrap the source files was XDCam. These files were then trimmed in Final Cut Pro, and exported for final delivery as Photo JPEG QuickTime files in HD and SD format, creating the most universally compatible format while maintaining the highest possible quality.

Even if you have the best camera body, technology, and setups in the world, any experienced DP will tell you it’s all for naught without good glass. “We used Nikon’s 60mm micro and Nikon 85mm micro PC (tilt shift) lenses,” Miller says.

Normally $2,739.00 for this 11-DVD set—which contains 150 ultra slow motion clips—Footage Firm is giving away copies until January 31st, 2011 for just $8.41 to cover shipping and handling costs. These are full-quality collections and all come with a royalty-free license that grants usage in all types of media, for worldwide distribution, in perpetuity.

“For the past 10 years, we have provided the kind of footage that NBC is proud to air on their prime-time lineup, but at a price point that an indie producer can afford,” Holland says. “To further prove our confidence that new customers will stay with us for years to come, we made the bold decision to give away our 11 brand new slo-mo collections for free.”
The 11 ultra slow motion collections include:

• Liquid Flow; Water Effects – Crystal clear water splashes, pours, drops, ripples, and streams.
• Smoke effects – Mysterious wisps, billowing clouds, and effusive bodies of ephemeral haze.
• Explosions; Fire Effects – Light it up! Awesome explosions, fireballs, toasty flames, and blazing fireworks.
• Paint Splatters – Vibrant throws of color.
• Burning Objects – Piles of money ablaze, a globe on fire, flowers smoldering surreally, a peace flag up in flames.
• Breaking and Smashing; Breaking Glass – Sledgehammers into TV sets, dropped watermelons, piggy banks demolished, mirrors smashed, baseballs thru plate glass, and other mayhem.
• Food and Beverage – Crisp apples, effervescent champagne, frothy beer, luscious strawberries, tart lemons with cool limes, and other delicious shots.
• Wind and Falling Objects – Fluttering flags, silky sheets, chaotic cards, crazy confetti, dappled rose petals, falling leaves, and explosive debris.

Free copies of these 11 collections can be requested by visiting: