Epic Pumpkin Destruction @ 700fps
And the BTS video by Claudel Desir from Headbox Media:
About two weeks back, I contacted For-A, a Japanese audio/video tech company that I had met while visiting PROFUSION in Toronto a couple weeks back and asked if they would be interested in loaning a For-A to me for a couple days. I had a project in mind and that was to destroy pumpkins with medieval weaponry and thought that it would be far more interesting to shoot some slow-motion video instead of stills since we all know that everything looks better in slow motion.
Since I am predominantly a photographer, throwing this project together was actually quite a challenge with less than two weeks to gather all the resources necessary, especially given that the shoot date was going to be two days before I began my workshop tour across France and the Netherlands. Luckily, I had my intern ( by now more a full time partner than intern) Deidre Casey who had some hidden Assistant Director Talents to help storyboard, script and edit so that I could focus on the production and technological aspect of things.
We found out a couple days before the shoot that the lovely folks over at Kessler Crane was going to be hosting a small video competition so coming up with a tiny cohesive storyline instead of orgasmic slow motion footage was slightly critical.
We do plan on releasing a purely slow motion video after my trip from Europe for those who want to JUST see slow motion so stay tuned…! And for the really hardcore guys, Subscribe onto my youtube channel or by RSS : http://feeds.feedburner.com/thevonwong
The first challenge we had was to find all the parts necessary to operate the crazy VFC-7000 that For-A had loaned us. Although a 43,000$ behemoth, the device actually required some critical accessories to be actually functional.
The first was a Monitor that had an SDI-loop through so that we could view and playback our footage. Thankfully I had an Ikan D5 Monitor at my disposal that IKAN had sent me for my water demons photoshoot. One small bonus of the monitor that we greatly appreciated during our shoot was the glorious HD display of the D5. A small crowd of us could all check out the playback footage despite it’s small size since it is an IPS screen which means 170 degrees of accurate colour awesomeness!
The second was that we needed to figure out a shuttle deck solution to offload the footage from the For-A onto a hard drive. That’s where I contacted my friend Ariel Levesque, creative director over at OneSum. He had a Blackmagic deck that we could use so he brought that along. Unfortunately the model he had available was only HDMI compatible so we needed to rent some fancy HDMI-SDI converter… but once all that was said and done, we were up and running!
From there, I needed to find some proper medieval weaponry so I contacted my old friends over at Les Artisans d’Azure and asked them if they had any costumes and weaponry they didn’t mind getting pumpkin’ed up! They happily agreed and brought along a variety of weapons – axes, war hammers, machette, daggers, mace, swords…
In parallel I needed to find the pumpkins… and I absolutely wanted them to be cut so I enlisted the help of my sister. She gathered her friends up together (over 11 of them!!) to come and help out with the carving. We gathered over 25 pumpkins for them to creatively destroy and ended up with a fabulous variety of pumpkins.
Once that was settled we still had to figure out we could make the pumpkin destruction exciting so I contacted one of my buddies Crisco Dean to scour the internet for exciting pumpkin destruction solutions. We came up with:
As you see from the video though, some stuff just didn’t make it such as the Mentos and Coke (fizzled weakly… somehow our canadian coke or mentos just aren’t up to par) and the propane balloon explosion I had in mind was a complete fail!!!
In addition, despite all the preparations, the shockwave of Hurricane Sandy decided to hit us that weekend and we had to deal with some insane winds that caused us a lot of headache when lighting our pumpkins properly on fire!
While in an ideal world, we would have an indoor studio space to work off of… shooting at 700fps requires a ridiculous amount of light (imagine a minimum shutter speed of 1/700th for photographers out there reading this). And of course, finding a studio space that would welcome flaming bits of pumpkin and water raining across the floor really wouldn’t come cheap ( if anyone has such a studio and wants to sponsor it for a future shoot, do send me an email!!)
As you can see in the BTS shots, we did have two 1000 Watt lights but those were unfortunately close to completely useless in bright daylight. They did help a little at night but our night footage really didn’t turn out as strong unfortunately! Next time…
Other things that came in useful for our shoot was a nifty piece of plexiglass to protect the camera (and us) from the pieces of pumpkin flying in every which direction. Nobody wants 50k of gear getting destroyed by a random flying piece of burning pumpkin right?
Back to the For-a VFC-7000 who should actually be the hero of this post since it was the key element to making this video happen. As someone who isn’t particularly video savvy, I was surprised to see how easy it was to make us of the For-a. Even in basic dSLRs these days, you’re faced with a variety of menus and options that just make life excessively complicated.
The VFC-7000 on the other hand was almost basic in it’s menu system. Essentially you had one set of menus to set Recording format, Frame Rate, Shutter Speed and Gain and another set where you can set details such as “Trigger Time” (Recording at the start, center or end meaning you can define what action “pressing the record button” actually performs) as well as clip lengths (A single 10 second clip or 4x 2.25 second clips for example).
You don’t realize it but 700 FPS means that shooting 10 seconds of footage roughly equals 3 minutes in real time and since the VFC-7000 shoots in uncompressed 10-Bit files get very heavy very fast.
Gain options are 0, 6db, 12db which are more or less the equivalent of ISO 100, 200, 400 while compared side by side with my D7000 and the sensor size is APS-C and noise performance is surprisingly good.
Tested out the rolling shutter real quick by shaking the camera around while recording (shhh don’t tell the company I did that) and turns out there is absolutely none in the event someone wants to take some 700fps CameraToss footage (not recommended!)
Besides that, there’s not much to say. The setup is not particularly mobile so there’s no way you’ll be bringing it on a surfboard in any form of underwater housing… but for anyone who does static studio stuff, this could be a very affordable option for you!
For those of you that are curious, I threw up a slow motion clip of a soccerball toss in relation to helicopter blades to give you an idea of what true 700 fps looks like. Sorry for the shakiness, it was hand held while testing out the gear
Ben Von Wong
David Huynh, David Yang, Yoon Lee, Liliane Ménard, Alex Bui, Anne-Marie Alain, En Yuan He,Tommy Cheung, Alison Wong, Luc Huynh
BTS Photography: Jose Soriano