Make your own low-cost high speed videos!

Sight seeing

Omnioculars, a gadget from the Quidditch World Championship,  allows you to see everything in slow motion – as often as you like. Although I’m (unfortunately) not a magician I am fascinated by high speed / slow motion videos.

During last years BETT Show my friend Leon (@eyebeams) showed me a high-speed video on Youtube.  It was so fascinating, that since this time I show this video to our students whenever it is possible. The result is every time very emotional, from fascination to disbelief – although the students know about physics they are surprised about this effect:

Not much time later I was lucky enough to hear the lecture of Michael Vollmer during the DPG conference, where he mentioned a “normal” digital camera which is able to record high speed videos (you can read his article here). It was absolutely clear what we need to buy next 🙂

So all you basically need is:

  • a Casio Exilim ZR 300 (or another one of the ZR – line) – costs around 220 Euro – which allow up to 1000 (!!!) frames per second
  • a good spotlight, neon tubes are NOT working because they are oscillating with 50 Hz!
  • a freeware program to cut, rotate or convert your video (we used MPEG Streamclip)

So here you can see a first little tests with our equipment, trying to reproduce the falling slinky drop:

I think the result is quite good, considering that our equipment costs just around 220 Euro!

There are a few basic rules that can save you a lot of time:

  • a higher the frame rate needs a lot of more light!
  • avoid shadows if possible!
  • choose a clear, monochromatic and fixed background!

You can find the short tutorial we wrote for our students here for a download. The tutorial is written in German but should be easily understandable due to the pictures.

I would appreciate your feedback! Have you used high speed / slow motion videos in class before? Do you have ideas for other fascinating videos?