Camera Flash Marquee: Real Of Fake?


It’s time for everyone’s favorite comment thread game: Real or Fake? This week’s edition comes in from a tip that [Fabian] sent us about the music video Bright Siren by the band Androp. The video starts by showing bundles of cables being sorted and connected to breadboards. We get a brief shot of a large LED matrix (presumably being used for testing purposes) then footage of a lot of DSLR cameras with external flashes. These are mounted on racks to produce the marquee seen in the image above. The band performs in front of it for the rest of the video.

We’ve embedded the original video, as well as a ‘making of’ video after the break. There’s also a website you can checkout that lets you write your own message on the marquee. That bit could be easily done in flash so there’s no que, you’ll notice there’s no live feed. While we think the theory is real, we’re a bit skeptical about whether this performance is real or video editing magic. In the behind the scenes clip you can see breadboards attached to each camera flash with rubber bands so we’d guess that at least some of the hardware was setup. But we’re wondering if the animated effects were done in editing like that tea light animation. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment.

Music Video:


Making of:


105 thoughts on “Camera Flash Marquee: Real Of Fake?

  1. Why ? Is it to show off they have a lot of money and they don’t know what to do with it (cameras aren’t needed, just the flash) ? Or is it to show they are bored ?
    Probably both.

  2. Calling fake on this one although with a fairly convincing setup. It just doesn’t feel quite right and it seems like they went out of their way to show that it was real but didn’t go out of their way to prove it – which means they were trying to lead you to believe that it was real when in fact it was not.

  3. parts are fake and parts are real.

    the fake ones are eaisly recognizable due to the terrible quality photograin that is repetitive looking (like a texture). This appears for most of the text.

    The real looking parts are stop motion captures of the flash I’d say.

  4. Seems to be like that many flashes would be A LOT brighter, and would wash out the video camera filming the music video. Even one camera flash from the side usually completely washes out a single frame of video.

  5. The making of video seems to provide more evidence but 250 60D cameras at what, $3000 each would be $750k. They obviously appear to have quite a few people working on this project as well as a fairly large space….. I would put this down as plausible but we don’t know if those cameras are real and functional and we don’t know if the flashes aren’t just LEDs instead of real flashes.

  6. the interweb says
    “Their team was inspired by the track’s title and the lyric “not to make it a memory” and used the flashes of 250 Canon cameras to create light animation that appears throughout the film, intermittently illuminating the band’s performance on the stage. Like this recent clip for Bell, technology–Flash, openFrameworks and Arduino–helped to achieve dazzling effects without any postproduction. The video is also featured on a dedicated site, where viewers can pause the clip to see photos taken from the cameras during the shoot and can also create their own version of the clip with a special message.”

    So maybe real.

  7. My first thought was “Hell no, this isn’t real. This has gotta be another tea light animation…”

    After looking more closely, though, I’m impressed. Each flash lights up what is directly around and in front of it, and you can see the reflections from that on the camera/flash body in each ‘pixel’ of the wall of cameras. After doing a quick frame-by-frame examination, it looks like it’s at least somewhat legit.

    Any decent camera flash can strobe like that, very easily, at 50fps+ without a problem as long as it has power. Seeing that they’ve got everything hardwired in (note the huge power strips in the making of video), I’m pretty sure they’ve got plenty of available current to recharge the caps in those flashes.

    Also, they appear to be DIYer’s/hackers at heart, anyway. They’re geeky enough to specifically note that they’re using Arduinos and OpenFrameworks, so why couldn’t they figure the rest out, too? They’ve got the LED matrix built, and after that it’s as simple as wiring a relay for each pixel to a flash and setting it up.

    Canon may or may not have sponsored the video. may have also supplied the cameras and shot the ‘bullet time’ scenes. Either way, it’s a pretty badass video, and I see no reason that it would have to be faked. It’d obviously be an expensive and somewhat complicated undertaking, but definitely possible.

  8. A Canon 60D with stock lens is ~$900USD. They’ve got huge boxes of them and most likely got a volume discount if they outright bought them. It’s also likely that they rented a large number of them (which is common practice for smaller-scale studios).

    I’d estimate that this video could be made for under $250k, and probably under $100k if most of the equipment could be rented instead of purchased.

  9. It’s an extremely convincing fake, if it is one. If it isn’t, they have more money than brains. Though @bWare is probably on to something. The “matrix” effect is super fake, though, because the virtual motion is on an arc and the cameras are on a plane.

    All that aside, the effect is amazing. I love the tiled video that makes a larger screen. Cool idea.

  10. the cameras look real to me – so what’s the point in faking the flashes? Reflections on the floor and on the lenses / bodies look ok, too. Besides, it is by far easier to fire the trigger than to replace the whole setup with cheaper flash units or do a photorealistic animation. The only thing that might be necessary is messing with the frame rate or pre-trigger flash sequence.

  11. If they merely rented the cameras (and didn’t physically modify them) then that would drastically reduce the cost of this setup. The only thing I really have any question about is how quickly the camera can prep the flash to fire again. The rate at which they animated the thing seems doable. IDK where CDE got the 30FPS framerate, it seemed more like 10 or less with a short period of off time when they had an individual camera ‘on’ for 2 consecutive frames, giving the flash a chance to recharge.

  12. After another quick look through it, I’m seeing even more evidence that says it’s real. Pause it on a frame where there’s a high rate of motion in the same direction. You can see the the dark spots where the flashes were illuminated in the previous frame. This is artifacting from the CCD in the camera that’s filming it.

    Also, hpux735, they’d have cameras mounted on tripods or on a multi-camera jig so they could all be fine-tuned to focus on the same central point for the ‘bullet time’ shots. That most likely was shot after the initial video and was edited in.

  13. It’s certainly possible with some modern professional flashes. They’re going about 7-9 fps or so, which is definitely doable. Short bulb-life, though, I think.

    My bet is on LEDs, fashioned inside flash housings. the wiring is to allow them to be controlled via a single computer.

    Music video budgets would certainly allow all the real gear to be purchased, then modified, but using actual flashes would be troublesome due to flash bulb failure. LEDs are far more reliable, and can be made to look just as bright.

    It’s likely that it’s very real, but done with LEDs. the slo-mo shots, in particular, make me believe that they’re using LEDs.

  14. Looks real to me, and yes, high quality flashes can recharge and discharge that quickly. Especially if they are set to lower power (like 1/128th). Though not sure why they have lenses and cameras to go with it? My guess is some of the cameras and lenses are either lower quality or just dummies.

  15. I cant tell for sure, but it looks like they are using the Canon 580EXII flash which has a recycle time as low as .1 second.

    Set the flash to low power, fully manual and it should be possible. Also low power settings have a longer flash period than high power settings.

  16. Maybe they are being sponsored by Canon… the video does go out of its way to show that it’s the 60D, Canon flashes and the kit lens. Although it has been out quite a while…

    Can’t the flashes be tuned down anyways? You don’t need that much light from each individual flash, and even in 1080p the picture is a bit blurry, maybe it was filmed with high ISO…

    It would be much more complicated to film the stopmotion individually and then have the band perform alone while recreating the lighting…

  17. While the marquee could be real, those camera flashes are not. They probably swapped the flash bulbs with traditional bulbs and are driving them via the cables. The cameras were probably gutted so that the wires connect directly to the hot-shoe.

  18. If you visit the website you can see the time-coded photos the cameras “actually” took. Seeing as it’d be a pain in the ass to try to make this look “real” I think it’s real. The LED breadboard was probably a small scale sample to see what the animation would look like, and then later they wired the cameras to be triggered based on the LED’s. If a flash can recover that fast and they did the legwork with the breadboard, I’m not sure why they’d go through all the rest of the trouble to make it look real if it’s fake.

  19. This is plausible from a technology standpoint. The cannon speedlites in this video have a recycle time of 0.1s at lowest power.

    Nothing in the video exceeds that capability and low power would explain the exposure not getting completely fucked.

  20. Probably real.
    Who says they bought or rented the cameras? They knew someone that is a distributor, sales are slow, cameras are sitting in a warehouse. They use them, repackage, and sell them later at full price.
    Electronics on breadboards? Too expensive, unless you ‘borrow’ everything for the weekend and put it back when you are done.
    Total cost? Maybe a party for everyone involved.

  21. Seems to me to be real. All they would have to do is contact a Canon rep and I bet anything acquiring that many cameras was EASY considering they clearly show the Canon logo in the video. Product placement is money.

    Anyway, the cameras should have the capability…The hardware should be pretty straightforward using the remote control buttons for pictures. External flash can easily handle that speed of strobe.

    The only two suspect parts are when it goes from 1 marque to like 12 in a huge display…im positive that was just edited…. also…I notice there arent any hard shadows on the ground in front of the band members…
    I dont know much about light dynamics and shadowing so they could just be overpowered by all the angles or something but still, id expect to see some shadows.

    In any case, totally plauseable and I think its 95% real.

  22. Not sure if those flashes can work at such a rate, as stated above, this would be super expensive unless they have some kind of Canon sponsorship in which case it is just an advert. I have to call fake on this one.

  23. I agree it is probably a gutted flash, perhaps camera. Not all cameras are 60D’s, and not all flashes are the same, many not even the EX series (maybe not even canon). Given the difference in power from the various flashes as well as different recycle profiles and reflector specifications, to try to match the output of everything by means of control would be daunting at best.

    Beyond recycle times, the burn time of each is silly long in some cases, even if you try to argue matching to the frame rate, not possible. As well, on low power, the flash durations of speedlites is shorter than the scan time of teh video camera. So even if you could match 30, 40 60 fps, that does not mean the ENTIRE frame of each would subject to captruing the flash.

    My call is fake, in so much as it is not as it seems.

  24. Interesting concept. The song kinda sucks though, and an arduino, really? Can’t people try just a little bit and learn to use microcontrollers like adults instead of children or “artists” that can’t possibly grasp programming an avr in C supposedly…

  25. Fake or not it’s a cool effect for a video shoot. Food for thought. Please keep in mind if anyone wants to implement an effect into a live concert it can be problematic to the audience. In my case, I experienced it first hand. It was dark and the lighting was great up to the point where the audience was being flashed. Our pupils were in a relaxed large state. Then we started getting flashed by the lights from on top center stage. We we getting blinded and it distracted us from enjoying the band because we had to block the flood lights with our hands. I am very surprised they didn’t notice the first 12 rows were all looking away from the spotlights. As for using this in a Video shoot – It’s an awesome effect that projects an original look. A great way to breakout their video from the rest. Really impressive to me is how many cameras were collected to make the video. I can see some poor soul standing in line at Walmart returns with two shopping carts of cameras :-P hehehe jk

    TY for sharing

  26. I would say FAKE. In the first video at 1:25 the flash on most cameras stay on for like 4 or 5 seconds. Camera flashs can’t stay on for that long as far as I know. It’s a quick burst and that’s it.

    My 2 cents

  27. I’m with all those that say that it is partially fake. Did anyone else check out the website? (
    If you go there, you can get your own message displayed during the video. Of course, you get only the “flashes” without any band members. But it looks a lot like the stuff that’s going on in the background of the video.
    Given that they implemented that just for fun on their website, I believe, that they are also able to do something like that in AfterEffects/Vegas/Premiere in a convincing way.
    So not completely fake. But fake.

  28. I think it’s fake. Some of those flashes stay on way too long to convince me it’s real. The flashes also seem to have a gradual brightening that looks more like an LED, which can be seen in the slow-motion scenes.
    The effort gone into the synchronizing seems to be real, but I’d bet the flash bulbs were replaced with LEDs.

  29. @BadHaddy: “they are probably just kicking off the lower power AF-Assist rather than a full flash”

    Good observation. I agree, this could be the case that would make this all real.

  30. I’d say it’s possible.
    The strobes are not putting out much light. On full power, that many strobes would over-power the cameras they are using to film…that entire stage would be washed out for the flash. Instead there are these thin bands of light…reasonable, for the lowest power setting.
    I have a $50ish YN-460. Lowest power setting, I can fire 19 low power flashes in a row, as quick as I can hit the button. The longest repeat of strobe fires I counted was somewhere in the 20 fire range…a better strobe could pull that off, easily.

    For most of the video, there are a minimum of three-five camera with intervals between the scrolling wall…three-five fires, three-five intervals to recharge the capacitors, which, for a low power burst, doesn’t take long…less than a second or two.

    Possible. The hardest part would be wiring it all up to something to control it…the strobes themselves are no problem.

  31. It is fake. There are white LEDs attached in front of every flash. Thats why light has round shape (flash shape is more or less rectangle, not circle).
    Look at the 2:53 on video – it,s clear to see :)

  32. 100K + for a music video is a lot these days. I can say for sure that this was a canon sponsored video and the total budget was prolly only like 20-30k. With the cameras provided of course…. You don’t go out of your way to show product shots like that just for kicks…

    As for if it was the real flashes??? idk looks like they mighta slowed up the shutter speed on some of the shots so that the individual flashes would bleed over frames a bit more to make it feel more like a consistant light. It was for sure not digitally added light, Just look at the drum set to see thats legit.

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