This video from the Insuurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) takes us behind the scenes to see their camera rigs for shooting video and stills of car crashes. The footage and photos they produce are used to help make vehicles safer in the event of a crash, but it’s also used a lot for other research and it’s even appeared in movies.
It takes a whole lot of rather technical planning and preparation to get each shot and to be able to repeat it with multiple vehicles over a period of time. Every camera is calibrated, measured and positioned very exactly to be able to reproduce the same shot days or even months apart.
The crash tests are performed in a giant building that was designed with photography in mind. It has ridiculously high ceilings and a custom lighting rig that puts out 750,000 watts of soft light, which is all controlled from a complicated lighting deck. They say that it’s important that the light doesn’t cast hard shadows and reflections, but it also needs to be very bright for the fast shutter speeds required at the super high frame rates they require for extreme slow motion video.
And they have several of those high speed slow motion cameras for recording every impact from multiple angles. This lets the experts slow things right down to get a good look at what happened during the impact, and figure out exactly what’s going on. As well as video, the team also shoots still photographs using Hasselblad cameras with digital backs.
It’s a fascinating look into a photography and video application that many of us will never get to experience for ourselves.