Earlier this year when cinematographer Jim Geduldick first heard that Vision Research was developing their new Phantom Miro M120 and M320S high-speed cameras, he went straight to the U.S. distributor, AbelCine, about the possibility of being the first DP to use it on a project. With his background in shooting action sports, Geduldick had the idea of taking the small high-res camera to the streets of New York City and Camp Woodward, Pa., an action-sports camp he attended as a kid.
"I came back as a skateboard coach years later," explains Geduldick, "and they teach filmmaking, editing, photography design and so on at the facility. So I pitched the same idea to my friend who runs the digital media division there, gathered up a bunch of friends who work in the business and have a background in skateboarding and action sports, and off we went."
High-speed photography is "a perfect partner" for action sports, notes Geduldick. "The type of tricks that are now done on BMX, motocross and skateboarding happen so fast, that without high speed, you just miss so much."
The DP stresses that the project, which was shot over a weekend, was a true labor of love. "There was no budget, and all the initial costs were out of my own pocket," he states. On the plus side, he got "a lot of support" from Vision Research, AbelCine and Canon. "I got to shoot with a couple of Miro prototypes before they were even fully announced," he recalls. "All they had released were some specs and a few pictures, so I was the guinea pig for the beta testing. And the plan was to shoot this little project and get an idea of the Miro’s capabilities, and also test out some of the new accessories."
The film Days Out with the Phantom Miro M120 also boasts some other firsts. "We also tested it with one of the new Canon [Cinema EOS] PL zooms, which is the first time someone had shot with that, too," he adds.
The DP had previously shot with Vision Research Phantom Flex and Gold cameras, "so I had some experience with high-speed," he says. "With my snowboard and skateboard filming background, the first thing that really hit me was the Miro’s small size. It was like how I began, with small Super 8 and High 8 cameras for shooting skateboarding. And to look at it, you’d never think it was a high-end camera capable of shooting a high frame rate with the same quality as its bigger brothers."
But Geduldick quickly found that looks can be very deceiving. "It can actually shoot 1920×1200 at 1380 fps, but most DPs using it now are mainly shooting at 1920×1080, which gives you roughly 1500-plus frames per second," he notes. "And it has great handheld capabilities. Normally, using a high-speed camera means the opposite. You can go handheld with the Flex or Gold, but when you fully ‘kit-out’ a camera for high-speed, it gets pretty heavy. Nine times out of 10, you’re on a Steadicam or on sticks, and your wrist starts to give out if you’re running around with a fully kitted-out Flex."