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Tips for Shooting Super High-Speed Footage with the Phantom Flex 4K

Shooting with a high-speed camera? Here’s how to prep your lights, camera, and storage to get the most out of the time you spend recording.

One of the joys of modern filmmaking is the accessibility of heavy duty cameras and equipment that, for a long time, was too expensive. Companies like ShareGrid give us the opportunity to shoot with cameras like the Phantom Flex4K, a super high-speed camera capable of some pretty impressive shots. However, if you’ve never shot with a camera like this, it’s hard to be sufficiently prepared for the kind of workflow you’re walking into once you step on set. Here are a few tips for what you should expect before you spend the money renting and shooting with one of these cameras.

Bring More Lights

Tips for Shooting Super High-Speed Footage with the Phantom Flex 4K — More Lights

If you’re going to be shooting indoors, regardless of the subject or the surroundings you’re trying to capture, bring more lights. In the video, they shoot with a 110k light that is heavily diffused — you’ll need much more in order to capture the action, especially if you’re stopped down trying to catch focus.

Avoiding Light Flicker

If you’re shooting at significantly high frame rates, from 500 to 1000 fps, consider how the type of light you’re using will affect your recording. When you’re shooting at a rate this high, make sure to use at least a 2,000-watt light in order to get everything. This will help you avoid seeing the filament in the light at that wattage. High-speed cameras, especially the Phantom Flex 4K, can pick up the flicker that is otherwise undetectable to the human eye. In the video, ShareGrid uses the HIVE WASP 1000 Plasma Par, which is 1,000 watts with an output of 75,348 lux, which is close to a 2,500W HMI. So their main goal is to use a light with a flicker-free ballast.

Capture Fast Movement Rather Than Lots of Movement

Tips for Shooting Super High-Speed Footage with the Phantom Flex 4K — Fast Movement

Because the Phantom Flex can capture at such high speeds, it’s important to get the most out of the camera while you have it. Rapid movements in a micro area will yield the best results. Mundane moments like the sparks you get from welding, pouring drinks, or sudden impacts will look spectacular and surreal through the lens of one of these cameras. So, be sure you focus on what you’re capturing after you figure out how to capture it.

Wide Frames Work Best with Lower Frame Rates

Because you want the audience to focus on a certain action, sight, or movement in the shot, leave the super-high frame rate sections to the longer lenses and tighter shots. The impact of what you’re seeing loses its appeal if you’re keeping it in the bottom left corner of the screen on a wide shot. Another benefit to lowering the frame rate for the wide is the amount of data you’re saving.

Rehearsing and Focus Pulling

Tips for Shooting Super High-Speed Footage with the Phantom Flex 4K — Focus Pulling

Shooting with incredibly high frame rates is a process that most of us aren’t used to. Making sure that everything is exposed and timed properly can be challenging. Rehearsal is obviously key, but if you’re shooting explosions or glass breaking or any stunt that involves fire, you’re going to want to nail it on the first or second take because that might be all you get. Proper rehearsal is key.

Another step in the process is making sure you have a reliable and trustworthy focus puller. The stars only align so much before you miss focus and everything is out of sync. Missing focus is bad enough when you’re not dealing with expensive, time-sensitive shots, so make sure you avoid this problem.

Efficient Storage

Ideally you can have a media manager on deck to deal with Phantom footage, but realistically, you probably won’t. So, make sure that you use high-speed SSDs, RAID with a thunderbolt connection. You’ll be saving your footage much faster than your computer can transfer. The biggest takeaway here is that each shot can average between 64GB and 128GB, so you need to be prepared to be able to hold that much footage.

ShareGrid is a stellar solution for putting cinema-level gear into the hands of the everyday filmmaker, as well as giving us the opportunity to let others work with our gear. For more on how you can use this platform to improve your craft and career, check out our past coverage:

Images via ShareGrid.

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