Still Photos from Movies

Article & photo by Al Perry

Bumble Bee in FlightHave you ever thought about making still photos with a movie camera? Now you can.

A movie is simply a series of still photos shot at a relatively high frame rate of say 24, 30 or more frames per second. You may have already created the illusion of motion with a still camera by taking a series of still photos and showing them at say, 24 frames per second—often referred to as time lapse photography. Your brain interprets the rapid showing of still photos as motion.

If you think that digital still cameras are evolving rapidly, digital movie cameras are developing at an even faster rate. In some ways, digital movie cameras are encroaching on still cameras. For example, high-end movie cameras can now record up to 19 megapixels, 16 bit raw images at the rate of 100 frames (still photos) per second. The best still cameras (35mm sized) can record 20+ megapixels, 14 bit raw images at up to 12 frames per second. A few photographers are using movie cameras to “catch” the right moment by “scrubbing” through movie footage and selecting the best frame (still photo). Today, magazine covers and two page layouts are being made, in some cases, with still photos from movie camera footage.

The photo above is a single frame from my movie camera capturing a bumblebee flying near flower blossoms.  The original movie was shot at 359 frames per second—359 still photos captured each second. Consider the possibilities.