Videographer Steve Romano is the kind of guy who likes to take it slow — at least when it comes to his video production. Romano uses a Phantom 4K camera capable of shooting at speeds of up to 1,000 frames per second. If you’re not familiar with ultra-high frame-rate 4K video, it’s a sight to behold; it really gives you a new perspective on motion and time. And it’s immensely satisfying to watch. You’re experiencing something that you aren’t naturally meant to experience — whiskey pouring into a glass, smoke swirling through the air, and objects tumbling through the frame all become something incredible to see.
From PA to Pioneer
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Romano grew up in a creative environment. His father was a commercial artist, and his own early interests were art and music-focused. After studying film and television, his first film job was actually as a PA for a low-budget adult film company. “The guy told me he did horror movies,” Steve recalls with appropriate amusement. Money disputes ended that brief stint, and he found his way into a series of more reputable staff positions, first with a special-effects company, and then in commercial production. After years of gaining valuable production experience, Romano decided to make the leap to the cutting edge of imaging technology.
Finding the Phantom
Steve eventually founded Velocity Media Systems to fulfill the market need for digital high-speed imaging. With more than 20 years in the film and video industry at that point, he committed himself to finding a camera technology that would achieve a variable frame rate of up to 1,000 fps and beyond. After an exhaustive search, and having learned all of the high-speed systems, he found Vision Research. For over five years, he worked closely with them to build a camera specifically designed for the film and video production world. That camera was the Phantom HD, and Steve has been using the Phantom line of cameras ever since, including the HD, Gold, and Flex 4K. Steve admits, “It’s still pure magic to see 1,000 fps played back immediately.”
The Future Is High-Speed
“The highest quality camera they have on the planet right now shoots 1280×720 resolution at 26,000 frames per second,” he responds. He’s talking about the new Vision Research Phantom v2511. “It’s the fastest camera on the planet. That camera can also shoot a million frames a second, but at a very, very small, thumbnail quality.”
He goes on to mention that it’s not the just the frame rate that sets Phantom cameras apart, but also the image quality, which is outstanding all the way from 24 to 1,000 frames per second. “Vision Research is more about making a nice image than its high-speed competitors,” he says. “More dynamic range, a larger color gamut, all that. They also make military application cameras that go really fast, but you sacrifice the image quality. But they’re getting there — eight or nine years ago, when Vision Research first introduced the Phantom HD camera shooting 1,000 fps, it was blowing people away. Now we’re shooting 4K at 1,000 fps with excellent image quality.”
Here, Steve makes a great point about large productions saving time and money by using one camera instead of multiple cameras. “In the past, you’d get a high-speed camera just to get your high-speed shots, and then use another camera for all of your other shots. These cameras are so good now, their image quality is competitive with any camera on the market. You can use it for the entire production. The quality is that good.”
Romano has also developed a “non-tethered” underwater housing for the Phantom Flex. This enables the operator to go anywhere underwater with the camera, and with no wires going to the surface, the system is able to reach more remote locations. And although Steve himself has been around the world and has shot land, air, and sea, he still has aspirations. “What I really want to capture is a baby underwater,” he laughs. “Like that Nirvana album cover.”
Check out the rest of Steve Romano’s Pond5 collection to see more incredible high frame-rate HD and 4K video.