Cool Camera Tech Uses Industrial Robots to Film the Impossible

Cool Camera Tech Uses Industrial Robots to Film the Impossible

Jun 19, 2012

Motion control, a process in which a camera is mounted to a computer-controlled robot to deliver inhumanly smooth and, most importantly, exactly repeatable movements, has been around for decades. High speed cameras, the kind that film at thousands of frames per second, have also been around for decades. Chances are you haven't seen a big-budget movie in the last ten years that hasn't used either, if not both, to create larger-than-life movie magic. That amazing flying "single take" shot in The Avengers? That was done on motion-controlled rigs. Seemingly every other scene in a Zack Snyder movie? High-speed cameras capture that extreme slow motion.

Extreme slow motion and swooping, flying cameras at the same time, however, isn't that easy. Those kind of unreal sequences, limited by the slow (relatively speaking) movement of motion control rigs and the physical restraints of bulky high-speed cameras, have traditionally been accomplished using CGI animation. The German production company Schoenheitsfarm has developed a way to do it in the real world. They've combined the rapid yet fluid movement of industrial-grade robot arms with a Phantom high-speed camera, a rig they've dubbed Spike, capable of getting real shots of physical things that have proven impossible to film in the past.

Instead of trying to explain it further, though, let's just let the camera do the talking:

Pretty cool, no? Obviously there are still some CGI tricks (the water squeeze, for one) in that demo reel, but shots like the exploding cork and the wine glass falling are pretty stunning and simply couldn't be filmed with that clarity at that level of camera movement in the past. Of course, you're likely to see this new tech used way more in commercials than in feature films, but we can't wait to see what happens when someone like the Wachowskis start playing around with it.

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