The rise of the smartphone has shrunk the digital video camera market, but expensive professional models are more popular than ever. Still, video pros generally have to choose between high resolution and high framerate. The upcoming PhantomFlex 4K, however, aims to provide both, as evidenced in its test film, "Let Me Know When You See Fire."
The video presents a slow-motion narrative about a team of firefighters who quell a raging fire in a suburban home. Cinematographer Gregory Wilson captured individual flames licking at the wooden house, droplets of water raining from the rooftop and woodchips bursting from a fiery door. The high resolution allows for detailed images of both facial features and equipment, while the framerate allows viewers to see individual strands of smoke curling.
The device is still a long way from completion. "The camera was a little more than a week old and still in its alpha prototype stage when we got our hands on it," wrote Wilson on the video's Vimeo page. As such, the device's tentative price is difficult to pin down, but expect producer Vision Research to market it to the professional videographer demographic.
Cameras that record at 4k resolution (roughly 4,000 pixels across horizontally) or 1,000 frames per second (fps) are not unheard of, but one that combines the two is does not yet exist outside of the PhantomFlex 4K. For comparison, most HDTVs broadcast at 1080p, and the most advanced video games can run at 120 fps.
More advanced televisions do exist, which can broadcast at a 4K resolution and support fps rates up to 240. However, this technology is not yet widespread, and home entertainment products that take advantage of these specs are few and far between.
Cameras that can film in excess of 1080p are generally best-suited to theatrical releases; 4K resolution exceeds the quality of many major Hollywood movies. It is approximately four times as sharp as HD television or two times as sharp as a gaming PC's monitor. [See also: 5 Tips for Delicious Food Photos ]
The 1,000 fps spec is a little more esoteric. Generally, anything above 250 fps is only useful for superslow motion footage. Most content falls well below that range: movies and television hover around 25 fps, while video games usually max out at 60.
To record 4k resolution footage at 1000 fps will produce incredibly large raw footage files, meaning that both the PhantomFlex and its storage options will both likely be very expensive. Still, few other cameras on the market approach this marriage of resolution and speed. If the device takes off, expect to see a lot more footage of fire and water crop up on video sites. Those two elements tend to look pretty in slow-mo.
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