A Highspeed Filmmaking Adventure

Someone asked me about getting some highspeed shots for a project. I immediately thought of the Sony RX10 m2 and m3 that do 1080 at 960 fps. It looked like I had my solution to pitch. I wanted to put in my due diligence though. There are other options out there and I wanted to see their price points. I knew of the TS3 Cine from when Masters in Motion visited Austin several years back. I knew the manufacturer was Fastec. I knew of the Olympus I-speed and then, of course, Vision Research with their Phantom cameras. I knew there was a lower price camera on the market, but couldn’t remember the name.

Fastec: TS3 and TS5 -

i-speed: used to be Olympus, now is ix-camera — 

Vision Research: Phantom Miro -

I quickly discovered that a Fastec camera that does 600fps is $13,000. That confused me because the Sony cameras do 960fps for much less money. Turns out the sony does 960 at 480 resolution and then uscales it to a 1080 viewing file. Fair enough. For the price, that’s an impressive spec.

After a $33,000 quote to buy an i-SPEED 3 camera I discovered a renntal option:

From South Central Imaging $1,500 will get you the following for a week:
Fastec TS4 color
510 fps @ 1280 x 1024

They also offer another option. $1,700 will get you the following for a week:
AOS Q-MIZE HD v2 High Speed Camera — requires a notebook computer, included with the rental, to operate
1,00 fps @ 1920 x 1080

From Electrorent $600 will get you the following for a couple days: 
2,000 fps @ 1280 x 1024

From Abelcine $2,000 will get you the following for a couple days: 
Phantom MIRO LC320, Color
1,540 fps @ 1920 x 1080
These folks are another resource:

There were three considerations that came in quick succession with each vendor or 
One. Color or monochrome? A lot of high speed video is used for testing and quality control in robotic maufacturing. When a robot does routine solders or cuts it is difficult to see exactly what is happening and why there might be an error. Shooting highspeed video essentially stops time and shows what is happening step by step. It’s a blink of an eye but can be corrected in programming or tweaking of the robot or tool. Contrast and image quality are essential, color rendition is not.

Two. What aspect ratio do you want? Remember rotating the camera 90 degrees to get a head to toe shot for more resolution for green screen work? Same thing here. 16x9 is known in the film world but with these cameras you will find sensors and aspect ratios that vary. Look at your final project output and consider if you have to have 1080 or if 720 can cover it.

Three. The last question is to be tethered or not? Since these cameras were developed to be used for testing in a manufacturing environment or lap there are a couple assumptions. 1. You have access to 120v to power the camera. 2. You have a comter handy to interface with the camera controls. While this is still true camera manufacturers have made moves to make the cameras more self contained and operate in a way familiar to film and video producers.

The question of color versus monochrom seems to raise a couple questions. 
1. Do you know how to color correct and are you avoiding it? 
2. If scientists like monochrome there has to be a reason.
3. Red Digital Cinema offers a camera with a monochrom sensor.
4. The 2013 film Nebraska was not shot in color: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebraska_(film)