Chase Jarvis TECH: Strobed Photo Sequences

Of all the behind the scenes stuff we’ve showed in recent vids, the one techie thing that far-and-away led to the most questions from readers was the part in this video where I’m photographing X Games uber-skiers Simon Dumont, Colby James West, TJ Shiller, Peter Olenick, and Nick Heine in New Zealand using strobes at 8 frames per second. That’s right, all that stuff for the SanDisk campaign you remember reading about earlier. Rail slides and 100 foot airs. 8 frames per second. Strobed.

I know why you had questions.

To be honest, I too didn’t think it was possible to shoot any pack at 8 fps for 40 or so frames straight, covering more than 100 feet of distance without frying something or something whimpering out. …Which is why I tested the concept a number of ways before the shoot. The above video briefly chronicles those tests, the actual shoot, and the cool results.

More images, 2 lighting diagrams, a full gear list, and a couple more tech points after the jump…[click the ‘continue reading’ link below]

Using this idea, we got results like this:

From the diagram below, you’ll see that we’ve got one Broncolor Scoro A4s pack run off a Honda 3k generator. I’ve moved the heads so they’re each front-lighting the rider. My VALs (voice activated light-stands…ie humans! – thx McNally for that term…) are in place and are pointing the Broncolor Unilite heads with Par reflectors at the subject (sorta like shooting a machine gun). The first of the two heads picks up the rider from takeoff to about mid-flight. The second head picks up the riders from about midway thru flight to landing, some 100 feet down the hill.

The other lighting diagram I sketched (below) outlines similar stuff to the one above. We’ve again got the Broncolor Scoro A4s pack, two heads with VALs, but this time we’re running one of my time-tested “sandwich” techniques… a light on each side of the subject. Here, it’s Simon.

And that gave me results like this:

Unreal, eh? We actually had to remove about 8 frames during the making of this composite since there was so much overlap…

For you techie’s, here’s a gear list:

Nikon D3
Nikkor 14-24mm lens
Nikkor 24-70mm lens
Broncolor Scoro A4s pack
Broncolor Unilite heads
Broncolor Par Reflector
SanDisk Extreme Pro card 32GB
Pocket Wizards
Aperture (to process)
Photoshop (to make layered file)
Honda 3.0k generator

Here’s a link to B&H; if you want to buy stuff.

What to do if this sort of equipment is outta your budget? Try renting stuff. Experiment. Use some of that birthday money from your mom and teach yourself how to use this stuff. And here’s a secret: try pickup after 3 on Friday. Rent for Saturday. Most places are closed on Sunday, return gear Monday. 3 days for the price of 1. Don’t tell them I told you.

And some tech details:
_Camera set to its maximum sync at 250th of a second (fastest base sync speed for camera)
_Camera set to its highest frame rate – this case 8fps
_Camera on a tripod (for ease in compositing frames later in post production…)
_Broncolor pack output scaled to about 60% or less of full power to keep up with 8fps. Your results must vary. But you should know this is an absolutely incredible statistic. A 3200 watt-second pack at 60% (roughly 2000 w/s) at 8fps for 40 frames or more until my camera buffer was filled.
_Remember from this vid, and the vid I did last friday it’s the super short flash duration that’s really stopping the action – not the shutter.
_For more on the shutter/flash duration thing, check out the kissing cousin to this vid here, the Chase Jarvis TECH: High Speed Photography vid.
_We’re using Photoshop to create the layered file…shooting on a tripod, laying each frame of the jump on top of the other and masking away the unwanted parts of each frame to reveal just the rider on the background…

Lastly, hope this has been informative. I hadn’t intended to do a video on this, but there were so many questions about it–plus I truly didn’t think this was possible–so I just had to put something together. Lemme know what you think.

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