Harish Samtani of Stereovision brings Phantom Flex, the new high-speed camera, to India.

He is not the innovator. But he brings the latest/upgraded equipment to India. Harish Samtani of Stereovision stocks his Arri shop with novel apparatus from Hollywood or different parts of the world. This time, it is the high-speed marvel called Phantom Flex. He talks about the amazing camera. Excerpts:

What is Phantom Flex?

A new generation camera, developed by high-speed photography specialist Vision Research of the U.S. It has been billed as the world's most flexible, digital cinema camera, which has been confirmed by its impressive specs.

It is based on Phantom Imaging technology that is used by NASA and the American Sports Medicine Institute.

What makes it different?

A director can ‘Flex' his creative muscle with this camera that can shoot from 5 frames-per-second to over 13,000 frames-per-second depending upon the shooting mode and resolution.

What onscreen effect can it create?

In most movies one sees the slow motion scene during an action sequence, when they want to emphasise an explosion or a car crash to increase its visual impact. The Flex camera can actually capture the

path of a bullet as it leaves the gun and impacts the object.

Aren't there other film cameras that can achieve this?

Yes, there are some (specialty) film cameras that can do this but they have their downsides. First, they are not as fast. Next is the cost, which at Rs.35000 a roll can eat into a producer's budget. Lastly, when the camera spools at this high speed, jamming of the reel is a common occurrence.

What is the advantage Flex has over others?

Since Flex is a digital magazine, it does not require a film. It is a mega cost-saving camera. One can shoot using the CineMag, which can then be downloaded onto ahard disk and then the Cine Mag can be reused. The camera is extremely light as it has less mechanical weight, and also because it lacks the weights of the 1000 ft of film and magazine.

One important feature is that the director can play back the actual shot immediately at the same frame rate on the sets, eliminating the need for a ‘daily'. In case of film, the dailies are sent for processing in the evenings and the errors (if any) can be spotted much later. So the digital format helps in re-shooting the scene if necessary right away.

A pertinent point is that the Phantom was used in the recently concluded World Cup in South Africa. In short, the Phantom Flex is used when “It is too fast to see and too important not to”.

What other special features does it have?

A new degree of flexibility that other digital cameras lack. It goes beyond HD and supports 4 megapixel imaging when the ultimate in image resolution is required. It has 12-bit pixel depth; 1000 ISO (measured using ISO 12232 SAT method); flexible lens options such as 35mm (PL, Canon EOS, Nikon F, Panavision), Super 16mm, and 2/3" lenses; Global, electronic shutter down to one-microsecond; Select raw digital workflow, video workflow, or can combine both for maximum control and flexibility; internal mechanical shutter for hands-free and remote Current Session Reference; on-camera controls for mode selection, settings, playback, edit and save.

Apart from that it also has frame synchronization to external signals that allows multiple cameras to be synchronized - essential for stereo 3D recording; Two 12V DC auxiliary power outputs for powering external devices; Remote port for connecting Phantom Remote Control Unit and much, much more.