High-speed camera shooting FROM a train

Graeme Taylor shot out the window of a train at 210 frames per second, reversing the usual trick of shooting and slowing down a high-speed object from a stationary spot; rather, he shot a stationary spot from a high-speed object. The effect is something like a mundane bullet-time, where the world has stopped so that no one can do much of anything. It's mesmerizing.

As Jason Kottke writes, "Wonderful illustration of the concept of frames of reference."

Both glides were filmed by sticking a - relatively cheap - digital camera out of the window of a train as it arrived at a station. The 'trick' is the camera collects images at a rate of 210 per second - but the film is played back at 30 frames per second. So, every seven seconds of footage that you watch corresponds to 1 real second. At least at the start, one real second is plenty of time for someone to move into, then out of, the camera's field of view, but isn't enough time for them to really do much: hence, the frozen effect. It breaks down towards the end not because I'm doing something clever with the frame rates (captured or replayed), but simply because the train was stopping! Thus, as it decelerated, any given person would be in view for longer, and have more time to point an arm, take a few steps along the platform, or maybe even notice me at the window. Any such action captured is still slowed down seven-fold during playback, just as with my usual static captures.

At least one other person has tried this before: Trey Ratcliff captured a station in Japan this way over a year ago, describing the effect as "Stuck in motion". He also mixes in other slow motion footage and its inverse, time lapse photography, in this gorgeous video, Heartbeats of Time.

"Pointless, action-free and totally mesmerising"


    1. Some options:

      1/ Read the manual. If it could do it, it’d say. As you don’t know, it probably can’t.

      2/ Sell your camera on ebay to help you get enough money to buy a new camera (most 210fps videos I’ve seen appear to be from a Casio, looking at the article this was also)

      2/ Fit a complex rotating mirror device to the front of it that deflects the image to different parts of the CCD without blurring it. This is highly technical, and would probably cost more than it would to just go out and buy a camera that can do 210FPS.

      3/ Accelerate your camera to over 90% of the speed of light, then time the fps by your frame of reference. Shouldn’t need to tell you this isn’t very cost effective.

    1. The 3-D effect using the dark lenses is called the Pulfich effect and is a cool mind hack. The eye covered by the dark filter takes longer to process the image, hence is seeing an earlier image than the right eye. Unfortunately, it is only useful for this kind of video.


    1. “Pumpkin” is not a station pub, as such: it’s a chain of mediocre snack/coffee shops that infest various parts of the rail network. There’s one just the same at Crewe, for instance.

  1. I like the way it looks as though there’s some kind of Harry Potter magical firefight going on in the cafe in a parallel universe the travellers can’t see.

    Boing Boing is often bigging up UK-ukuleleist Sophie Madeleine (I just bought her new CD, so I for one succumbed). She did her MA in Songwriting at Bath Spa University.

    For completists, Bath is where Herschel discovered Uranus, and Bath Spa station was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1840 and is ten minutes from Bristol on the Great Western Railway line. As well as linking Bristol and the South West to London, which it still does every half an hour or so, the GWR would, in Brunel’s vision, have become part of an integrated transport system allowing passengers to buy a ticket in London and get to New York with a change in South Wales to board his steamship.

  2. There were a couple TV specials made this way in the late 80s/early 90s. A super bowl half time was one if Im not mistaken, and a rolling stones concert. the camera was spinning around constantly to give the effect. We got free glasses in the newspaper. I remember watching regular tv with them on and every once in a while there’s be a panning scene that would work. my little mind was a little blown.

  3. Slow-motion and time-lapse photography are the two most hypnotizing things to watch. . . well, besides porn.

  4. i think a wider angle lens allowing the viewer to follow subjects longer from one side of the video to the other would have been more magical. it’s still pretty cool.

  5. funny how human memory works. i’ve never lived in bath, but my parents have for many years. the last time i went there on a train was probably 8 years ago. yet the moment i saw the still frame for this posting, i knew for certain where it was taken.

  6. Strange and magical, but still a little blurry. I wonder what the frame rate would have to be to lose the blur.

    1. The blur may have something to do with the resolution at 210 fps. The casio cameras have approx 448×336 resolution at that speed.

      They make HD high speed cameras with 1080 hd video out at 1000 fps like the phantom hd but those are expensive even to rent @ 2-4k a day with accessories.

  7. When the video started, I thought, “hey, that looks like the station at Bath.” (a place I’ve only been once). I was quite gratified to see that I was right :-D

    But um…. yes, cool thing.

  8. This is the closest I’ll ever come to feeling like the Flash. Gives a hint of how intoxicating it would be to have that kind of speed.

  9. Speaking as an American, I have to say this is stunning. Not the film actually, but- people travel by train?

  10. Hammy the hamster saw things like this in the kids’ movie Over The Hedge when he drank a caffeinated beverage.

    But his consciousness was so sped-up that he saw a laser light beam wend its way across a lawn. (That may not be technically possible, I realize, but it was a movie.)

  11. The effect is something like a mundane bullet-time, where the world has stopped so that no one can do anything much of anything.

    Cory, I will volunteer to be your editor if you like. Free as in beer. Free beer would be nice too.

  12. I love the flickering of the incandescent lights. When you slow down the film speed, the alternating current pulses really becomes apparent.

  13. Bath Spa. This is Bath Spa.

    This was my station as well for a while, so I know it well. The vending machine that never works, the overpriced café, the strangely shaped sushi-bar that they put in a few years ago, and the regular travellers who know the exact square metre of platform to stand in to be in front of one of the doors.

  14. I love how many people read BB who are familiar with Bath! I used to live in Corsham (and then later LacockP) and Bath was the nearest City to us, so I also immediately recognised the station from the still image before the video actually played.

  15. The problem with this video is that most of the people really aren’t moving or doing much at all. The few moments where you see people moving and walking around look like high-tech special effects. The rest is just sort of haunting. If it captured people fighting or running for another train it would really show the effect of this cool method

Comments are closed.