When I was told the folks at Vision Research were willing to let us use two of their very expensive, very high-speed cameras, I knew immediately what had to be done.
Shoot stuff.

So many questions could be answered. How, say, does PowerBait trout goop react to a .223 round at 19,300 frames per second? (Television, by comparison, runs around 30 frames per second.) What happens when you shoot a basketball with an expandable broadhead or a can of tomato soup with a .308?

We had to know. It didn’t take long for our target block to get covered with shaving cream (as you can see in the video), soup, glitter, light bulb fragments, paint, and little pebbles of ballistics gel. Needless to say, we had fun.

But the shoot wasn’t just a group of editors hanging out at the range making a mess. Having these Vision Research Phantom cameras was an opportunity we weren’t about to squander. So we called in more than a dozen rifles, muzzleloaders, shotguns, compound bows – Cermele even brought his air rifle – plus enough ammo and targets to train a small army.

The Phantom cameras from Vision Research are, without question, the bleeding edge of high-speed photography. On the first day of our three-day shoot, with the help of Toni Lucatorto, VR’s cinema product manager, we set up the Phantom v1610 100 yards downrange, adjacent to a steel gong. We set the monochromatic camera at 43,400 frames per second. These black-and-white bullet impacts, like the one that opens the above video, came out completely surreal. Shotgun slugs crawled to the targets and hit like a sledgehammer; .223 bullets exploded in a circular star-burst of lead after the tips touched off tiny sparks at the very moment of impact.

On day two and three we used the color Phantom v711 camera to record all the messy stuff at 19,300 frames per second. These cameras, we should note, aren’t normally used in cinematic-type projects. They’re designed for scientists, researchers, and laboratories. We’ve just had the good fortune to put them to use on a rifle range.

Over the next couple months, we’ll be posting videos from the shoot on the Field & Stream and Outdoor Life sites. The opportunity to film with these cameras was so awesome, we were forced to come from behind our barricades and share the results with the enemy over at that other hunting and fishing site.

Some will be just plain fun to watch, like the Angry Birds vs. Shotgun clip we just posted on OL’s Facebook page. Others will be more educational, like Dave Hurteau’s look at compound bows in super slow motion. Stay tuned.

_A Special Thanks to: Winchester Ammunition, Smith & Wesson, Springfield Armory and the Tamarack Preserve.