Slow Motion, Fast Processing: Shooting Up to 900 fps with FOR-A’s 4K FT-ONE

The following article about FOR-A’s FT-ONE 4K camera appeared in both the August print issue of DV magazine and on CreativePlanetNetwork.com on July 25, 2013:

On the FOR-A web site, the company describes the FT-ONE as the “world’s first high-speed camera designed for super-slow-motion acquisition at 4K resolution up to 900 frames per second.” In the theater beside their booth at this year’s NAB Show, FOR-A presented some of the most gorgeous super-slow-motion 4K shots I’ve ever seen. One of an orca whale jumping out of a pool with its trainer riding on its back seemed to hang in mid-air. It was breathtaking.

Jay Shinn, the account manager for FOR-A in the northeastern United States,08Learn-FORA-FTONE-2 says the impetus for the creation of the FT-ONE was customer demand in Japan. “FOR-A has a history of investing in new technology since 1989,” Shinn says, “and it gives us a chance to partner with key customers like CBS and NHK. I’d classify the 4K FT-ONE as a specialty camera designed for sports and independent video applications that need high image quality at exceptionally high speeds.”

Introduced at Cine Gear Expo 2012, the FT-ONE incorporates the FT1-CMOS, a 08Learn-FORA-FTONE-3global shutter CMOS color sensor. It uses a PL mount lens adapter and records raw imagery to internal RAM, which can hold 9.4 seconds of 4K content at 900 fps. Footage may be transferred to optional hot-swappable internal SSD cartridges, each of which is capable of storing up to 2 TB, or 84 seconds of 900 fps footage. The camera accommodates two cartridges, enabling nearly three minutes of 4K acquisition before offloading is required.

Recordings are output as four 1080p HD signals (Quad HD) for a total of 3840 x 2160 pixels. Footage may be piped into FOR-A’s own MV-42 multi viewer via 3G to be downresed to HD. Or you can send it to FOR-A’s FT-1READ, a raw data-to-DPX converter available with the FT-ONE camera. The FT-1READ takes the raw data from the SSD drives, imports all recorded info, and converts it to a DPX file. Another offload option is to send the footage to an AJA Ki Pro Quad solid-state recorder, which will generate 4K ProRes files for edit systems that handle that format.

From Charles Imstepf’s 4K test shoot

From Charles Imstepf’s 4K test shoot

One stellar feature is that FT-ONE material can be played back while the camera is recording. This makes the FT-ONE especially useful for live sports productions, especially when used in conjunction with an Evertz Dreamcatcher replay system. CBS Sports executives revealed at a recent industry event that they used six Dreamcatchers and six FT-ONEs during this year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Charles Imstepf

This camera is so new that there aren’t a lot of production models available, but Charles Imstepf—co-owner with Debbie Gilbertson of Imstepf Films in the Brewery Arts Complex in downtown Los Angeles—got the chance to run some tests with an FT-ONE just before this year’s NAB Show. He found it to be a lot easier to set up and use than other 4K cameras he’d tried.

“It is able to offload its recordings much faster than other 4K cameras,” Imstepf says, “and the tabletop images we shot with the FT-ONE looked beautiful. The high-speed splashes and highlights were stunning in 4K.”

Imstepf was somewhat surprised by the size of the camera, which weighs in at 18 lb. 11 oz. fully equipped. “It’s as big as one of the old ARRI film cameras,” he says, “and we had a bit of trouble mounting it on the lightweight tripods and camera supports we are accustomed to using. Still, we are looking forward to shooting with the FT-ONE again once the production models are more readily available. In that pre-NAB timeframe, I believe there were only a couple in this country.”

Greg Strasz

Greg Strasz has worked as visual effects art director on several of Roland

Actress Courtney Turk blows colored powder in Greg Strasz’s FT-ONE test (1,000 fps, 4096 x 2160)

Actress Courtney Turk blows colored powder in Greg Strasz’s FT-ONE test (1,000 fps, 4096 x 2160)

Emmerich’s blockbuster films, including 2009’s 2012 and the recently released White House Down, but he recently used an FT-ONE to shoot part of a short film Emmerich commissioned to test Strasz’s own skills as a director.

As part of this project, Strasz was shooting a scene with two Blackhawk helicopters landing on a Coast Guard ship; he thought the water spray they kicked up would look spectacular in slow-motion 4K. Before shooting this complicated sequence, Strasz set up a test situation that would let him observe how flying particles appear in high-speed 4K. He hired some actors and tossed both liquids and powders at them on a stage in Hollywood’s New Deal Studios.

“I was very impressed by what I saw on the control monitor,” Strasz says. “We tested with backlighting, front lighting and high and low keys. The image at 860 to 1,000 fps was very clean, and the even skin tones held up exceptionally well. The amount of image detail from the FT-ONE really catches your attention, even better than some other 4K cameras I have used.”

Joel Spezeski

Joel Spezeski

Joel Spezeski

When I got the chance to speak with Joel Spezeski, a freelance DP working with Southern California rental facility Tonaci Digital, about his experience shooting high-speed 4K with the FT-ONE, he was in Nha Trang on the coast of Vietnam. He was shooting a commercial for Sanna introducing a new seaweed-flavored health tea.

Although he was not shooting that spot in 4K, he conducted some extensive high-speed tests (830 fps) with the FT-ONE last March for another client and says that the FOR-A camera exceeded his expectations.

“The simultaneous record and playback is really useful when shooting ongoing action,” Spezeski explains. “That lets you show one section of your footage to the director on a live feed while you are continuing to record what is happening in front of the lens.”

Of course, when shooting at over 800 fps, 10 seconds of action can take four minutes to play back, so not having to wait for the footage to offload speeds up the shooting workflow.

The optional FT-1RU remote control breakout box streamlined Spezeski’s camera setup process. “The overexposure was a bit ‘video-y’ for my taste, since I prefer a softer gamma curve at the top end, but overall the dynamic range was reasonable and the colors were nicely saturated.”

Like many high-speed digital cameras, the FT-ONE’s body can get warm with extended use. “That’s why I appreciated the really fast black balance on the FT-ONE, since you have to check that as the temperature rises,” Spezeski says. “The camera struck me as really flexible for live environments, where you don’t have as much control as in a studio setting.”

You can view the original article here.

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