High Speed for Slow Motion Punches

January - 2009

When you shoot a normal video, the camera captures individual frames at a rate around 30 frames every second. When viewed normally, and at the same speed, each second that went by during the recording takes one second to watch in playback. If you use a camera that captures a higher number of frames per second and play that back at 30 frames/second you get what we know as a slow-motion video. By slowing time down in the playback, we can often see fascinating things that would normally be missed because they simply happen to fast for our eyes and brain to keep up with. One of the first examples of this are the set of photos from 1878 called "The Horse in Motion." by Eadweard_Muybridge who was the first person to prove scientifically that a horse has all four hooves off the ground in a gallop. Fast forward 130 years and the technology has, unsurprisingly, improved significantly. Today, anyone can buy a consumer level camera that shoots at 1,000 frames/second. The sample videos I've seen from this camera aren't studio quality, but are certainly an example of how far technology has come. Professional grade cameres are even more impressive. Take the self-promotion piece created by the production company Action Figure. The video is a series of people getting punched in the face by a boxing glove with the Action Figure logo. Since it was released, this video has spread all over YouTube and similar sites, but all those versions seem to be compressed to the point where they loose the sharp details. The original QuickTime movies on the Action Figure site really highlight the quality. slow-motion-punches.jpg When I was trying to dig up the link for this post, I came across a few supplemental videos on the Action Figure site as well as the main one.

While I like the main video with the tune (Shazam's remix of "Sweaty" by Muscles), I am more mesmerized by the sting of individuals where you see each punch uninteruppted. Watching the way everything moves provides a glimpse into time that feels almost supernatural. Also, it's good motivation to try to keep from getting punched in the face. If you'd like to see some more examples of this, check out Discovery channel's new show "Time Warp" that is centered around high-speed camera work.