Match catching fire at 4000 fps reveals a strange, grotesque landscape

by Felix Esser

posted Friday, January 24, 2014 at 8:54 AM EDT

The human eye can follow action only so quickly, so we don't get to see the fine details when things happen at very high speeds -- for example the explosion of a water balloon, or the firing of a bullet. This is where slow-motion footage comes in, which is usually recorded with specialized cameras, such as the Phantom Flex, at very high framerates, often multiple thousand frames per second. When played back at 'regular' speeds of 24, 25 or 30 frames per second, we suddenly get to see all the hidden details that our eyes and brains would be unable to perceive otherwise.

One of the masters of slow motion recording is Alan Teitel from UltraSlo. Not only is he an expert when it comes to capturing stuff at high speeds, he is also an Emmy Award-winning cinematographer and producer of commercials and documentaries. With twenty years of experience in recording slow motion footage, he maintains a YouTube channel where he regularly posts videos of his slo-mo adventures. His latest video shows us what it looks like when a match is lit–and recorded at 4,000 fps.

If we assume that the video above has a framerate of 30 fps, then this means that what we see is happening 133.3 times slower than reality. So what is happening here in roughly three minutes only took about 1.3 seconds in real-time. What we see is how the heat of the torch that Alan points at the match slowly causes the chemicals in the match's head to burn, sculpting a landscape that evokes a number of associations: nuclear explosions, a field of growing and decaying mushrooms...or maybe it's a strange alien world we're looking at?

It goes without saying that it's not a simple task creating a video like this. In order to get enough light at the match (remember, 4000 fps means that the exposure time for each individual frame is a max. of 1/4000 second), Alan had to use not only 2000 Watts worth of lights placed within four inches of the scene, but also additional mirror and reflectors to achieve an evenly bright illumination. The result is nothing short of spectacular.

(via PetaPixel)