It's counterintuitive, but to make super slow motion movies, you need super fast cameras. Thursday, award winning filmmaker David Wright trained one of the newest of these super cameras on the birds of prey at the Georgia Southern University Center for Wildlife Education.
Working with the Center's Wildlife Curator Scott Courdin and his staff in the morning, Wright tested the abilities of a Phantom v641 digital motion picture camera to capture the intricate details of raptors in flight. The camera is so new that there are only three production models currently in use and is capable of shooting over 1,500 frames per second at full 1080p High Definition resolution.
What does that mean in layman's terms? To put this in perspective, video footage is most commonly viewed at thirty frames per second (30 fps). Three seconds of footage from the v641 produces a nearly three minute shot when played back in real time.
Wright worked with Center Director Steve Hein in the afternoon to produce footage of bald eagle and university mascot Freedom. Wright and Hein have been friends for over twenty years after working on a National Geographic production together. Because of that friendship, copies of all the footage shot Thursday will be donated to Georgia Southern.
What is the value of such super slow motion footage, beyond curiosity and the spectacular quality?
"These films will allow people to see Freedom and the other birds in a whole new way," says Hein.
"I've been working with birds of prey for twenty-five years, and these three-second bursts gave me a whole new insight into the world of raptors."
Indeed, Courdin and his staff marveled when they viewed footage of a Harris Hawk lighting on a handler's arm. All were surprised at the position of the feet and talons after seeing hundreds of landings in real time.
Wright has been a fan of the Center since it opened.
"It's such a great resource, for both myself and the public, to learn about wildlife."
Hein has yet to receive the raw footage and hasn't decided ultimately how it will be presented to the public. He says that the camera's technology is so advanced that several details will have to be worked out, but everything is on the table and hopes it can be viewed on the Center's web site and on Facebook, as well as anything else the university's marketing department can dream up.
"This footage needs to be seen because it really punctuates the beauty and the power of these majestic animals."