Visualizing video at one trillion frames per second
From John Terning
MIT Media Lab postdoc Andreas Velten, left, and Associate
Professor Ramesh Raskar. In the foreground is a plastic
bottle glowing with laser light. A camera that captures
images at the rate of one trillion exposures per second is a
device with amazing potential, according to researchers at
MIT. The tradeoffs required to reach that speed also mean
its a camera with some real drawbacks.
The main drawback is that the system only records visual
data in one spatial dimension. So, to create a
two-dimensional moving image (a movie), researchers have to
recreate the exact same event time and again and scan it one
slice at a time. The slices can then be combined to create a
The result? Researchers can watch light (photons!) bounce
around inside of a bottle. MIT Associate Professor Ramesh
Raskar calls it "the world's slowest fastest camera."
MIT says the $250,000 camera was developed to be more than
just a good parlor trick:
"The camera was intended for use in experiments where light
passes through or is emitted by a chemical sample. Since
chemists are chiefly interested in the wavelengths of light
that a sample absorbs, or in how the intensity of the
emitted light changes over time, the fact that the camera
registers only one spatial dimension is irrelevant."
It could eventually lead the way to advances in scanning
physical structures, both manufactured and biological, like
an "ultrasound with light." It may even — one day — advance
the art of everyday photography.