Shooting at 1400fps with the use of Robots

One of our regular readers, Brendan Isaac had some downtime during the CoronaVirus lockdown so he decided to create a video to show how his production company Tasty Pictures utilize motion control robots and high-speed shooting to capture unique shots.

Tasty Pictures is based out of Brisbane Australia and they specialize in tabletop and food shoots. If you live in Australia you are bound to have seen some of their work on TV.

Bolt on track in tasty studio

So what does it take to create shots like these?

This is not something you can do at home, it requires very expensive and unique equipment as well as a lot of talent and imagination. It is one thing having all of the equipment and an idea, but you need to be able to execute it.

Tasty Pictures’ core component is the Mark Roberts motion control Bolt robot. The team utilizes two robots which they have affectionately named ‘Fred’ and ‘Barney’. The Bolt robots allow you to set up and replicate complex moves.

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They can move incredibly quickly to precise locations which is crucial when filming high-speed shots of moving objects. The Bolt robot can go from a standstill to full high-speed motion and back to a complete stop in fractions of a second. It is capable of horizontal and vertical movement speeds of up to 2 meters per second, and a 180-degrees of rotation in a 1 second.

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Now, the robot needs to be programmed to perform its movements. The Bolts use motion control software that is designed to give finite command over camera movement.

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The team also uses a custom pneumatics kit that syncs with the robot.

What is the camera of choice?

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You would think that a high-resolution camera would be what is being used, but the team actually uses Phantom Flex 2K. Why not use the 4K Phantom Flex? Well, the Phantom Flex 2K may not have as much resolution as the 4K but it can operate at higher speeds of up to 1400fps in 2.5K. The Phantom Flex 4K is limited to a 1000fps in 4K. Due to the high frame rate and shutter speeds being used, the perceived difference between 2.5K and 4K would be hard to differentiate.

What about lenses?

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You might be surprised to know that one of the lenses the team uses is the very affordable Loawa 24mm 24mm f/14 Probe Lens. This lens has proved to be incredible to use on robots as you can program the pan tilt and roll to happen at the end of the probe. According to the team, this lens allows them to achieve shots that they weren’t previously able to get.

When they aren’t using the Laowa lens they use RED Pro Primes with diopters when required, as well as the Angenieux EZ zooms.

You need a ton of light

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High-speed shooting, especially at 1400fps requires a ton of light. Tasty Pictures uses the ARRI M90 9K HMI High-Speed Kit as the main source and some ARRI M18s for fill. The ARRI M90 is a $35,000 USD light. HMI lights need to have 1000hz ballasts to be used in high-speed applications.

The team also utilizes 10K tungsten lights for fill and warm tones when required. They also have a bunch of ARRI SkyPanels set to their high-speed mods.

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