6000fps Drip

Last year I read about a camera setup at MIT that could shoot a trillion frames per second that could capture the movement of light. I thought I’d try to do the same thing with my camera at home, and use water drops instead of light waves. The water drops wouldn’t exactly repeat every time, but I thought that would make it more interesting.

I thought that, since my camera could shoot 60 frame-per-second video, if I shot 100 water drops, I could weave them together to make a 6000fps movie.

I started off with a simple setup in the kitchen. My camera on a tripod, a mug full of water, and a recycled yogurt container with a tiny hole in the bottom to make the drips. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough light and the footage turned out blurry.

Next I tried to shoot outside, but the camera was too close to the mug, and the depth of field was so narrow that the whole mug couldn’t be kept in focus. Also, the outdoors was great for the light, but all the sun overheated my camera and I had to bring it inside to cool off.

Here’s the setup I used for the final footage. The camera is hooked up to AC power and hiding in the shade. The overheating warning light started to flash near the end of the ten minutes it took to film all 100 drips, but it turned out okay.

The camera setup:
Canon 2Ti
1280×720 video at 60fps
1600 iso
1/4000 sec shutter speed
f 5.6
300mm zoom

The footage was then broken up into 100 separate clips, each one starting at the first frame a new drop enters the screen. I then took a few hours organizing all the clips, by the height of the water drop on each first frame. The video was edited to show the first frame of clips 1-100, then the second frame of clips 1-100, and so on.

I hadn’t expected it, but around the eighteen second point, you can hear the noise of all 100 drops woven together. There is a delay, since the camera was about eight feet away, and at 6000fps the sound would have taken a few seconds to reach the camera.