The role of high-speed cameras at the World Cup 2018, and how they actually work

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high-speed cameras

High-speed cameras are definitely becoming irreplaceable tools in our world. One very recent example of the impact they have on us is the new VAR (Video Assistant Referee) technology which is being implemented for the first time at the soccer World Cup currently taking place in Russia.

The new rule is widely discussed by soccer experts, coaches, federations, referees, players and fans.

What is the high-speed camera based VAR system used at the soccer World Cup 2018

It is an additional high-speed camera-assisted system which allows for referees to stop a match and ask for a slow motion or ultra-slow motion replay of a specific moment to be interpreted by the VAR team of referees in order to determine the final referee decision for a goal, an offside, a red card or the identification of a particular player on the field.

The 33 cameras available to the VAR team, some of which are ultra-slow motion and others slow motion allow for real-time evaluations of different situations on the field. The team of VAR referees can contact the main referee to inform him of a detail or problem spotted. In the end, though, it is the referee on the field who makes the final decision.

The system relies on slow motion and ultra-slow motion cameras set at different angles around the offside line and around the soccer field which thanks to their ultra-high-speed manage to capture every single detail of the fast-moving game, which cannot be seen by the human eye.

It has been used since last year, and is still in an experimental phase, unlike the goal line technology which was introduced back in 2012 and is now common practice.

High-speed cameras have a frame rate which is hundreds or thousands times higher than the normal camcorders. The ultra-high frame rate allows for capturing all the details in a fast moving event or object which are not visible to the human eye.

The recording can be played in slow or ultra-slow motion which allows for a very close and precise inspection of each and every detail up to the millimeter and less.

Already, just a week or so since the kick-off of the World Cup 2018, these cameras and the team of VAR referees which uses them have made a whole difference in the outcome of the tournament. Several dubious goals, penalty kicks, and red card decisions have been made solely based on the recordings made by one or more of these cameras on the Russian stadiums.

Other spheres in which high-speed cameras are essential tools

But high-speed cameras are essential tools for a wide variety of other spheres such as industry, science, the automotive business, the military, for aeronautics, and for many more.

They allow for humans to inspect the details of vehicle crash tests done by car makers for safety reasons. They are also crucial for providing ongoing inspections of fast-moving production processes in various industries, as well as for troubleshooting faults in the production equipment in real time.

Scientists, as well as filmmakers shooting nature documentaries or shows like Myth-busters, use slow-motion cameras to capture every single detail of a natural or another event which lasts for a couple of seconds and cannot be seen with the naked eye.

People in the military use high-speed cameras to record and then inspect ballistics, precision and other elements of different military tests and operations.

Cameras like these are also widely used in aeronautics for watching launches and inspecting for any potential problems during this crucial stage of launching the rockets into space.

In the movies, slow-motion cameras are responsible for some of the most memorable movie scenes such as Neo dodging the bullets in “The Matrix.”

As you can see, high-speed cameras, also known as slow motion or ultra-slow motion cameras are crucial for certain industries, sports, science, the military, and others.

How do slow motion high-speed cameras work

But even though it may seem like a simple endeavor to film a fast moving object or event with a high-speed camera, in order to get the expected result, the slow-motion camera needs to be used with the appropriate hardware, software, lighting and other elements which allow for a satisfactory end result.

Traditionally, high-speed photography is performed in complete darkness, and the camera shutter opens only for a single flash of light in order to capture the moving object such as a drop dropping into the water, or a bullet passing in front of the camera.

But when high-speed cameras are used to record entire bits of fast-moving actions and objects, the complete darkness and the camera standing on a tripod doesn’t work.

Fitted with extremely high-speed frame rates, and with either CMOS or CCD sensors, they can record a fast moving event with over 1,000 frames per second.  Some of these cameras record the captured images on film and others transmit the recording to internal or external digital memory so that the recording of the event can be played back in slow motion.

Given that these cameras capture thousands of more crystal clear images per frame as compared to traditional cameras, recording and storing those takes up more time and space than with conventional cameras.

Once these pictures are played back in a normal 24 frames per second, the result is a clear and detailed view of the slowed down action which reveals many details which you normally won’t be able to see if filmed by a standard camcorder or if you are watching the action develop yourself.

With the growing demand of TV viewers for receiving HD content, more commercial and TV shows use high-speed cameras to provide these high definition scenes in which viewers are able to see all phenomena and effects in a motion which they normally cannot with the naked eye.

In recent years, the quality of high-speed filming has developed further, and today instead of filming a fast-moving action with a static high-speed camera, robotic arms or high-speed dollies are used to move the camera alongside the moving object in order to track it closer and even to capture the movement for different viewpoints and angles.

This makes the resulting slow-motion films even more impressive, detailed and fascinating to viewers as well as useful for scientists, automotive and industrial facility inspectors and others using high-speed cameras.

In conclusion

So, not only will high-speed cameras most probably have a huge impact on the outcome of the World Cup in Russia, but also they are absolutely vital for various types of scientific and medical research, for ballistics and rocket launching inspections and monitoring, and for a wide variety of industries where they are used for detailed and precise viewing of facility tests, production processes, crash tests and many others.

It sure looks like high-speed cameras are changing not only our personal perspective on things as viewers but can be used for a wide variety of purposes and cases when normal speed cameras or the human eye are powerless to spot the vital details and phenomena of a particular movement or action.

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