How To: Film cheetahs in slow motion

For this project you will need one cat toy on a string, a high-speed camera mounted on a moveable track, and also some cheetahs.

This behind-the-scenes video shows you how National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo captured amazing footage of big cats in motion. It's a complicated process and I wish they'd shown more of the animal-handling part of it. I certainly didn't realize that some zoo animals were so comfortable with humans that you could walk them around on a leash and let them off to run free around a dozen unfamiliar members of a camera crew. Still great to watch, though.

Via Laughing Squid, which has the 7-minute video showing the final footage of running cheetahs.


  1. Cheetahs are usually very tame around people. If Egyptian paintings are to be believed, the Egyptians used them to hunt in a way that people today use Borzois and Greyhounds. I imagine they pack quite a bit more punch than those dog breeds. 

      1. There reportedly used to be a few cheetahs living in Manhattan, back in the days when being a millionaire meant something. They’re they one Great Cat which can be reliably domesticated — not just trained but tamed.

        The only thing that’s kept them from becoming more common as pets is that they won’t breed in captivity — they need miles of running just to reach fertility. Biologists are just starting to understand the hormone cascade involved in that.

        I really do hope we beat the breeding problem. They’re gorgeous animals, and they’re on the cusp of extinction.

  2. The Cincinnati Zoo has an amazing enclosure for the resident cheetahs. You are not always guaranteed to see them as it is so large. 

    One of the cheetahs even set a new world speed record recently. “Sarah,” the Cincinnati Zoo’s 11-year-old cheetah, sets new world speed record!  She first earned the title of world’s fastest of all land mammals in 2009 when she covered 100 meters in 6.13 seconds, breaking the previous mark of 6.19 seconds set by a male South African cheetah named Nyana in 2001.  This year, Sarah shattered all 100-meter times when she posted 5.95 seconds.

  3. Filming cheetahs in slow motion is easy – they spend a lot of time lying around purring or walking around slowly.  It’s filming cheetahs that are in fast motion that’s difficult :-)

  4. The footage is amazing! Her head barely moves through all that motion by the rest of her body.  I love that the ears fold back for aerodynamics :)

  5. Hm. I had the highest expectations. But, however, I can’t share the whole enthusiasm about the technical side. “Never been done before”, “most sophisticated shot I’ve ever done” – really? I didn’t do anything that complicated, admittedly. But then, a lot of other documentations actually did stuff more sophisticated (and somewhat more exiting, sometimes – in the wild, for instance…). I am still totally freaked out by some of the BBC stuff, especially the timelapse recordings and some slomo recordings.

    Found some footage on yt. How did I miss *this* in cinema?

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