Have you been hearing a lot about high-speed cameras lately? If you are a sports fan, you are probably aware and have seen the slow motion and ultra-slow motion replays of certain moments during a race or a game. Or, if you like watching nature documentaries, you have watched those amazing slo-mo scenes of animals, plants and of the natural phenomena which cannot be seen with a naked eye.
The history of high-speed photography
The truth is high-speed photography has been around for more than a century and a half. Back in 1878, Eadweard Muybridge used high-speed photography for the first time to capture images of galloping horses in order to answer the age-long question whether the hooves of horses all leave the ground at the same time during a gallop or while running.
So, ever since then, high-speed photography and high-speed cameras have been used to capture very fast moving objects and actions in precise details which cannot be detected by the human eye.
Of course, today in the 21st century, the high-speed cameras have evolved immensely, and are used in a wide variety of fields and for many different purposes as indispensable tools for inspecting details which cannot be seen otherwise.
The multiple uses of high-speed cameras today
High-speed cameras are widely used in sports events, where the game or race is so fast that there is often doubt about the actual winner of the race, or whether a goal was scored or a player caused a foul.
In fact, a range of high-speed slow motion and ultra-slow motion cameras are currently being used as the main tools for the brand new VAR (video assistance referee) system used for the first time at the World Cup 2018 held in Russia.
A system of these specialized cameras is set up across the soccer fields at the Russian stadiums, and a group of delegated referees watches the match in real-time from different angles with the ability to play back any dubious situations where it is not completely clear whether there has been an offside, a goal, an offense for a red card has been made, or who the player who caused an offense was in a given situation.
For the first time in the history of world cups, this video assistance referee system will play a large part in the outcome of the matches and no doubt in the final results of the championship.
High-speed cameras have been used to capture photo finish photos for years now. You can probably recall what the photo finish images look like. They include every single detail and body part of each runner or racer as they approach the finish line in order to determine who is first, second and third.
They are essential tools used by coaches to improve the performance of their players or athletes by watching detailed slow-motion recordings of their performances and then analyzing the problems and finding ways to improve them.
But high-speed cameras are widely used for some even more serious purposes as well. Scientists use them to record fast-moving natural events, chemical or physical reactions, or others which need to be inspected closely.
They are used for biomechanical and medical research purposes too.
In the military, slow-motion cameras are used for recording and inspecting and assessing ballistics and different ultra-fast actions.
In aeronautics, space launches are also recorded with high-speed cameras, so that any faults, problems or other issues can be pinpointed and resolved.
In various industries, high-speed cameras are used by engineers for testing high-speed production equipment and processes as well as by quality inspectors to monitor the production itself.
In the automotive industry, these slow-motion cameras are especially useful for watching the impact on crash dummies during the safety vehicle crash tests performed.
High frame rate cameras have also become popular in the production of documentaries, such as Mythbusters, or nature documentaries, as well as for filming commercials and feature films.
How do high-speed cameras work
In other words, these slow and ultra-slow motion cameras are used for all situations when a fast moving object or event needs to be inspected closely in detail, and which cannot normally be seen by us due to the high-speed, and which cannot be filmed properly with a conventional camera due to the blur and distortion of the resulting images.
High-speed cameras can capture thousands of frames per second, unlike standard movie cameras which shoot 18 frames per second. The high frame rate allows for a very precise and detailed playback of the motion filmed when played back in slow motion.
Not only do high-speed cameras have higher frame rates than conventional cameras, but they have increased shutter speeds too.
For 3D detailed images, several high-speed cameras can be placed at different angles and synchronized, and then be triggered to record at the same moment with the same frame rate and shutter speed in order to end up with a very detailed, clear and precise 3D image of the moving objects or activities. The triggers used can be pulse generators, clock synchronization, GPS synchronization and others.
If used outdoors where there is sufficient sunlight, no additional illumination is needed for the high-speed cameras. But for indoor use, halogen, fluorescent, HMI, quartz halogen or compact fluorescent light sources need to be used to provide the required illumination for the objects and activities being filmed.
Also, special computer hardware and software is needed for configuring the camera, for storing the captured images and for playing them back in slow motion and in reasonable detail.
The use of fast connecting interface, as well as sufficient storage space, are essential to increase the speed of transferring the film to the computer as well as for storing the large amounts of data which these detailed images carry.
The software used for configuring the settings of the high-speed camera, as well as for transferring, processing and playing back the captured images and film is also of key importance if the best results are expected.
High-speed cameras not only provide us with the capability to view an event or action which we cannot normally see in such detail, but they are irreplaceable tools for a wide variety of important industries, science, medicine, military, automotive safety, sports and numerous other spheres of our lives.