My first slow motion mini-studio shoot

Posted by
 May 6, 2014

In this video I’m trying my hand at the product type shoots which are good for small things with vibrant colour and fast motion. Where you take the time to setup a little stage and take the time to think about lighting and the small details.

In my first attempt here I’m using bits of equipment I have, which I have not used for this purpose before. So it’s a bit of a learning experience in this type of shoot so I can find out the holes and gotchas in the workflow. I have tried and seen many setups like this for flash photography although slow-motion video presents a new set of challenges.

Main challenges in slow motion compared to flash photography setup

  • Strobing from lights
  • Enough light at high shutter speed – due to low power continuous light sources
  • Movement
  • Noise

Strobing happens when the pulse rate of the electricity, usually imperceptible to the human eye, in an AC current, differs from the timing of frames and the shutter speed of the camera. The easiest way around this is to use battery powered DC current lights. I’m using 3x 160LED lights. These don’t create any strobing at these frame rates and shutter speeds that is easily perceptible (although there is some flicker that is given off from LED’s but it is at a very high rate).

The image is quite ‘low ‘key’ since I am only using 3 lights. 2 rim/edge lights and one light under the glass table. The 2 rim lights I reflect off the camera with a silver reflector (I’m using an open softbox shroud).  The typical way around this is is to open the aperture of the lens to let more light in.

To capture movement in slow motion that is clear and sharp, I need a high frame rate and a high shutter speed (shutter speed effectively controls blur frame to frame, but also influences the amount of light captured). When you have really sharp frame to frame footage, it is possible to slow down even further with a program like Twixtor as it gives sharper data for the program to work with, to give a convincing 1000fps look.

Noise comes from under exposing the image, this is problem when there is too much dynamic range and you want to keep your highlights and get good exposure in the darks without getting into the dark noise areas of the sensor.

Ways of improving next time.

  • I will use a large Zebra type reflector in front of the camera.
    • This will give me a more interesting reflection profile that suits glassy surfaces and provide more reflected light to the front.
  • Use of 2 more extra rim lights aligned vertically.
    • Vertical to create a longer/taller edge light reflection.
    • Will half diffuser flag off the rim lights. This will diffuse the rim light but allow full strength light to bounce of the zebra reflector.
  • Add another single top down light.
    • Angled at the front zebra reflector for a nice top spread of light.

This should give me a nice light environment.

  • To avoid noise, with enough control of the light, I should be able to control the amount of dynamic range and shoot in REC709 and at 500 ISO. Basically not have so much extreme difference between light and dark areas. This should remove noise completely.
  • I used a black background, which is good for low key stuff but I might also try a light grey background also for a higher key (brighter overall) look.

I’m thinking of some new things to shoot:

  • Fresh vegetablesa and fruit in water (I think would be popular for stock footage)
  • Crushing ice
  • Blender and different coloured liquids
  • Different interesting and classic glasses with coloured water/liquid
  • Flour
  • New customers products or concepts
  • Things that break or react quickly are ideal, I’ll put some more though into it, this is the fun creative part.