Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS MILLISECOND SERVICE GOOD FOR
The service is for creating ultra slow motion shots for visual effects. The camera system can shoot over a broad speed range; anywhere between 120 to 12,000 frames per second, selectable in 12 fps increments. It allows you to slow action down up to 500 times to get slow motion visual effects never before possible. This camera is a great alternative to existing high speed cameras because is easier to control, takes very sharp pictures, can use timed flash illumination instead of hot flood lighting, and doesn't waste any film.

HOW IS THE MILLISECOND CAMERA DIFFERENT
Instead of moving film from a supply reel to a take-up reel, this camera continuously spins a 90 inch loop of film around inside the camera housing. This means film transport can be done at over 500 miles per hour.

This is not a prism camera. The image is relayed to the film plane through a rotating mirror, not a prism. This prevents unwanted refraction of the image and better agreement between the film plane and the image plane during exposure, resulting in sharper pictures.

WHAT KIND OF MAGAZINE DOES IT USE
It doesn't use a magazine. Instead, you use the film loader to load a 90 inch strip of film off a roll and then load it into a light tight cassette. You then use this cassette to load the strip of film into the camera and recover it after exposure. So instead of one or two takes off a 1000 foot roll, like with existing high speed cameras, you can get about 50 takes off a 400 foot roll.

WHAT KIND OF LENSES DOES IT USE
The camera has a Nikon mount, an Arri PL mount and a Panavision PV mount. It will accept any lens of these types. With the Arri and Panavision mounts, the mounts for matte box rods are in the standard location.

DOES IT HAVE A VIDEO TAP
Yes. The viewer system includes a C-mount port for video tap, and a standard color video camera with 30fps output. The image can be sent to the video tap through the viewer mirror for set up and composition. During the shot, the image can be simultaneously fed to the video tap through a 10% pellicle mirror. This pellicle mirror is removable if you do not need to monitor the shot on video and want all available light to go to the film.

For many shots, 30 fps video is not fast enough to be really useful. High speed video cameras with C-mounts (which are nearly all of them) can be used to monitor the shot at faster speeds.

HOW DO I SET EXPOSURE
Exposure is set like any other cinema camera. The camera's minimum F-number is f 2.8. There is a one stop loss through the optical system, so the minimum T-number is t4. It's maximum shutter angle is 80º adjustable down to 10º. Image quality is slightly sharper at shutter angles below 60º.

CAN I SHOOT OUTSIDE
Yes. You can shoot outside, though you need a lot of light. Most high speed shots are lit to levels well above sunlight. Also, when you shoot very fast, exposure times become very short. The amount of light needed to make an exposure at these speeds is more than sunlight for standard film stocks. Adding lights or pushing the stock may become necessary. Also, the faster you shoot, the more frames are exposed during the time it takes the shutter to open at the start of the shot, and to close at the end. With continuous light, either sunlight or studio light, this results in frames. The faster you shoot, the more frames will be partially exposed (twenty frames at the top speed).

CAN'T I JUST DO THIS ON A COMPUTER
You can draw about anything on a computer. But in order to recreate chaotic or turbulent events like smoke coming from a gunshot, it takes a lot of time and skill (i.e. expense) to get them to look real and not cartoonish. The Millisecond camera captures images of the actual event, yielding an impact and realism which is very difficult to reproduce. This is especially true for the faster subjects where action happens in a time domain that is generally unfamiliar. The difficulty of re-creating the way things flex and vibrate and flow in this time domain should not be underestimated. Digital post production can be very useful to interpolate, enhance, combine and compose the images for greater effect, but it is no replacement for a direct film record of reality.

WHAT ARE THE LIMITATIONS
There are no limitations on the type of film used, the composition of shots, or subject matter. Apart from the following constraints, the method is very similar to conventional cinematography. You are limited to 120 frames, or five seconds of screen time. This is because film transport is done by spinning a 90 inch loop of film (120 frames' worth) around continuously instead of pulling film from a supply reel to a take-up reel. As you might expect, you cannot do a rack focus or a pan during the shot. This is because shots typically last only several milliseconds (thousandths of a second) and moving lenses or tripods at this speed is not possible, especially because the camera is also a massive flywheel. (Anyone remember the gyroscopic effect from high school physics?)

IF THE FILM GOES AROUND IN A CIRCLE, HOW DO I KNOW WHERE THE HEAD IS
The camera generates a timing pulse when the head of the film is in front of the optics. This pulse is used to initiate the shot for subjects that can be accurately triggered, like a pyro, or for continuous subjects which are being sampled, like a stream of water. For shots where you cannot control the exact timing, like the impact of falling objects or bullets out of guns, the camera is slaved to the event and will start shooting automatically. However, there is no controlling where the beginning of the loop of film may be at this instant. With these types of subjects, you get an occasional splitting of the shot from top to bottom . The shot may sometimes start in the middle of the film, run off the end and finish up at the top, requiring a splice to reconfigure the shot. Where possible, it is best to do several takes of these types of subjects in order to maximize the likelihood that you will get a reasonable sequence of action on a continuous piece of film.