Cinematography conquers the frequency domain

We have a natural grasp of the fact that we can’t see small things. Likewise things that are very large escape our notice because they exceed our field of view. We might call these aspects of the spatial domain. When I began studying engineering, I learned about this marvelous concept of a frequency domain. It’s an acknowledgment of the fact that some things happen very slowly and some happen very quickly. And just as things can hide from us because they are too small or too big, they can also hide because they are too fast or too slow.

Technology helps us on all these frontiers. High speed cameras slow down the invisible wings of a hummingbird, and time-lapse photography shows a sapling reaching sunward like a hand. And recently I’ve noticed that, as these camera technologies get better, they bring with them the cinematographic techniques of conventional cinema: zooming, tracking, and pulling focus. For time-lapse, this is a fairly straightforward process of carefully mapping out your camera’s motion across the hours. If you’re really good, you can end up with something like this.

At the other end of the frequency domain is the fast stuff. Tracking and changing focus at these speeds is more problematic. For this, you need fast, stable robotics. Here’s a wonderful “how we do it” video from a German special effects company that specializes in high-speed cinematography. They do things that you’ve never seen before. Things that simply haven’t been possible until now. Watch.

[Spotted on the IEEE Spectrum Automaton blog]

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