I’ve written a few articles here on the site about slow motion and it’s ever-growing accessibility and quality. It seems like with every new year we push the limits of high speed photography. In fact, lately I feel it has become a fad, often being taken to such an extreme we find ourselves fast forwarding to the climactic points, completely contradicting the appeal of slow motion to begin with.
At one point I nearly uploaded a video titled “1 Million Frames Per Second Butterfly“. It was going to be a 5 minute long video of a butterfly in flight. I was looking to innocently mock at this obsession with slower and slower motion with such an extreme title, only to have viewers slowly realize that the butterfly is not moving, and they were in fact looking at a static, non changing single image throughout. Making the point that limitlessness technology does not necessarily mean limitless discoveries, understanding, or enlightenment. As the butterfly would illustrate with its undramatic seemingly static state.
High speed photography has now been pushed to SUCH an even further extreme than anyone ever thought imaginable, that it has become once again a major breakthrough. How does One Trillion Frames Per Second sound? At a trillion frames per second, a video of my butterfly making just ONE single flap of its wings by my calculations would take over 12 1/2 YEARS to watch. Hopefully now you can understand what a staggering figure 1 trillion frames per second is. So far this furthers the point of my butterfly, so why is it a major breakthrough?
When we’re talking about speeds this extremely slow, a butterfly from this perspective is more immobile than the grand canyon seems to us now. So what moves fast enough that can be analyzed at this speed? Well, imagine flicking on the light switch and being able to see the photons extend outwards from your lamp’s light bulb and emerge out into the darkness of your room, creating light as they bounce infinitely in every direction as they come into contact with the objects around them. Imagine being able to capture on film- the speed of light.
1826 Joseph Nicéphore Niépce captured the first photo with an exposure time of 8 hours.
1877 Eadweard Muybridge devises a shutter mechanism made of wood, brass, and rubber bands, to capture a horse in motion at a shutter speed near 1/125th of a second.
1964 Harold E. Edgerton photographs a bullet piercing an apple at a shutter speed of 1/1,000,000 ( one millionth of a second).
2011 Ramesh Raskar and his team at M.I.T figure out a system to capture images at one trillion frames per second.
Femto Photography: The Video