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. Most of the shots are real.

    I’m wondering if they synced to the camera’s shutter, some shots it looks like its in sync other shots it appears to be drifting out of sync.

    As for it being too bright, or not looking bright enough, that all comes down to the camera’s aperture, shutter speed, film ISO or gain and what filters are used. I would have shot it alittle brighter looking to milk that camera flash look. It looks more like LED’s in this video than camera flashes.

  2. I’d say it’s real. Or at least it’s possible.
    one of the photography students at school had a flash unit like those in the video, which could fire at at least 30Hz for about 5 seconds and be bright enough to annoy everybody in the room.

    surely someone just needs to dig out the spec’s on cannon flash units…

  3. I’m with the “LEDs replacing the actual flashes” (at best) camp. Flash duration is too long for an actual strobe (and getting video synced of a strobe tube is hard.)
    > high quality flashes can recharge and discharge that quickly.
    Perhaps. But can they be triggered at that rate through the camera? (Of course, they could just be using the cameras as particularly expensive flash mounts. +1 to the comments about the camera+flash setup being extremely wasteful.)
    I don’t know about low power being dim enough to create the video as seen. At 4:00 we see a band member with an actual camera behaving and looking more like I’d expect from an actual flash.

  4. The flashes have a strobe mode, allowing for the “way too long for a flash” parts. As mentioned by many others, at low power these units can recycle very quickly.

    Why use the cameras instead of just flash? Because it’s probably cheaper and easier to hack a remote trigger cable than to hack a hotshoe (and still have working/undamaged equipment to return to the place where you hired them from).

  5. 100% real. They even showed how they control it. I know for a fact that there are flashes that can stay on indefinitely, in a very rapid strobe, with essentially zero recharge time. They can also be dimmed considerably, and there are control/trigger signals that the flash and camera can receive.

    Personally, I believe they just set the cameras to take pictures when triggered remotely, and that every flash you see has an accompanying picture. Otherwise, I feel like it wouldn’t have been worth the cost to buy that many cameras, even as decoration.

    There are some parts that are obviously edited together, such as the four-story dancing guitarist animation, but the electronics are completely valid and there would be no reason to fake anything.

  6. It makes sense that people here are thinking more like engineers and not like artists: it’s music (art) and video (art). Having all those cameras is artistic and a great hack.

    Sure they could have done it with a mish-mash of different camera’s but why wouldn’t someone pitch the idea to a camera company to sponsor it.

  7. I’d love to see the result of chucking all them images into autostitch to make a HOOOOGE panorama

    10 tall by 25 high 60D’s would make a lovely
    34,560 x 129,600 Pixel image of the band from behind!

    anyone know any hardware capable of playing 4.5 Terapixel HD video? :-P

  8. Quite well done, I’m going to say that it looks legitimately enough put together.
    To the folk saying that the shots from the camera seem off, consider the field of view of each individual camera will change considerably across the range of that wall/shelf. Like an exaggerated effect of how your eyes see two separate points, enabling you to see “3d”.
    On that note, how many “D” can this be considered to shoot in?

  9. let all not forget how fast a strobe light can flash. Based on any mods that could be done to trade brightness for speed, I say that a strobe marquee is entirely plausible. Is this one REAL? we will find out.

  10. and i think flashes should have looked square because the opening for the bulb was square and yet they are perfectly circular and the light from so many flash bulbs would definitely destroy a cameras light balancing or contrast or blind it completely

  11. I’m almost sure this is real. Unless they’re fake, those cameras are worth a lot of money; fans would probably be willing to pay double MSRP to get one. I saw enough hardware shown to accomplish what it purports to be. They had the equipment, it looks like they did it.

  12. I’m calling fake,
    using LED’s not cameras with just enough cameras for the “setup” to seem real, also doing a few runs, some with a few real cameras taking shots to provide the “bullet time” shots and such which look way more exposed than the regular video. And others with the LED’s going to provide the videos

  13. if you watch just the animation you start to get a hint at what is really going on. Do the flashes make the graphics…oh yes, are they stock flashes, possible, but not necessary. If they are stock flashes then, the boards on the back of each flash make sense. They are NOT flashing in real time and each frame is based on the real time refresh of the flash. However if they gutted the flashes you no longer have a flash but a strobe which can refresh fast but would need external timers and addressing to do the marque.

  14. Dean: Entertaining though that idea is, I shudder to imagine trying to correct the perspective shift over such a large area for a subject that’s so close. I do plenty of panorama work myself as a hobby, and most of that time is spent fixing perspective shift for my camera on a tripod over the course of three or four frames, nevermind how many this is.
    Anything above fifty or so images in a panorama and you’re looking at at least a couple hours of realigning, unless you’ve gone to lengths to find your no-parallax-point for your lens.

  15. I think the cameras are real, but its not the flashes we see. First, I think it would be much brighter, also I don’t know if a flash can fire that fast. The batteries would be a problem, but they show a bunch of AC plugs with means they are probably not using batteries. I don’t think they bought the cameras, they are either rent or models. Also, if you look at the flashes at 2:51 ~ 2:53 you can see 2 black lines comming from the sides, wich suggests they put white LEDs in front of the flashes, and those are the lights we see. This explains both the brigthness and the fire rate.

  16. So does anyone have a canon camera and flash they can experiment with to see what sort of effects you can get via the remote control inputs? Real data trumps speculation! (and this would be the sort of thing an Arduino excels at; a quick proof of concept/test for something that you don’t really want to spend time building much custom HW for.)

  17. maybe fake simply because:

    – at 00:12 we can see that the flashes were rectangular, so when in action, they’d give a wide oval flash
    – at 3:55, we see that the flashes in action and all were a pretty perfect round white glow.

    Most probably they’re some kind of bright LED based lights or something..

  18. If this is real, whatever flash they are using that has that amazing of a refresh time, I want! Mine is horrible in comparison.

    I’m gonna say fake. As I know with my flash, sometimes it refreshes fast, but there are several times where I have to wait before the next one is ready.

  19. If you pause the first video at 0:14 you’ll notice those flashes are all different.
    Another problem; if the cameras are shooting every time the flashes go off they’d have to be shooting at a much higher fps than low end Canons are capable of. If they aren’t synced and only the flashes are firing then how did they do the bullet time video?

  20. Technically doable. As said, when hard-wired proper flashes should be capable of strobing like this. Financially I would have gone for just a flash without the canon bodies but ok. I you have enough cash to and want to show it off, it could be real.

  21. I think it is real, but the flashs are LED ones (like in mobile phones) and not those with a xenon tube in it (pause the vid & look, they’re a circle and not a line…

  22. @rob Are you sure?

    I would be able to quite comfortably set mine to strobe at min power and then set it off at what looks like well below 20 fps.

    The most common application for flash requires the illumination of a subject. Conversely lighting up a bulb just enough to see it come out in a video requires next to no power. Remember flash power is measured in hundreds of WattSeconds. How many watts are required to light up a filament enough so a video camera can see it?

    The video obviously has computer editing, but I call the concept of the flash strobing marquee real.

  23. Response:

    1. OMG! Too fast!

    Strobes can recycle very fast, indeed. It’s just a matter of charging, duration, and intensity. (RC time constant, Mr. Kelvin, Mr. Ohm, Mr. Watt, et al.)

    (Whether these particular strobes can do this, I don’t know. Let us debate that instead.)

    2. OMG! Too dim!

    Modern camera strobes can be turned down in intensity. Filters can be added to video cameras. Exposures can be adjusted. The overall “look” of the video has nothing to do with whatever it is that is making the video happen, and everything to do with creative intent. Video cameras can take pictures of the friggin’ SUN — a wall of camera strobes is meh in comparison.

    3. OMG! Too expensive! Must be fake!

    Have you priced a music video lately? How about a set full of “ordinary” lighting and rigging? A few hundred SLRs with flashes sounds like a fairly cheap 2-day rental, to me — especially without needing to do any other set-work.

    But whatever the case, money is a management problem — not a technical one — and it’s already spent.

    4. OMG! It must be LEDs, because there were LEDs in the first few seconds!

    Of course there were. Would you finance a project like this if you -couldn’t- visually predict what patterns the geeks had in mind? LEDs are an easy way to see things.

    5. OMG! Why use camera bodies? Why not just use strobes? OMG, so complex my brain hurts from the inefficiency!

    Because it looks cool. Maybe not to you, and maybe not to me. But to someone. If they just wanted to use strobes without the visual effect of having cameras, there’s a myriad of professional strobes which can produce anything from brief intense flashes to constant blinding white light (given human persistence of vision), which are very rentable in quantity for stagecraft.

    The whole point of a visual exercise such as a music video is to produce the desired look. (Why is this a foreign concept?)

    6. It’s fake because there’s a flash animation on their website that lets you “display” whatever words in that you want to using their “strobes”! OMG! Anyone can make this!

    Yeah, there is a widget on their website. It shows one letter at a time. How many letters are there, exactly? How long do you think it took to photograph each of them and convert it into a customizable flash animation? I had cooler tricks than that on my CGA-equipped XT in 1987.

    (Is this comment too negative for the new HaD? We’ll see!)

  24. Lets assume for a second the 580EXII could do this (even though it can not). Not all of the flashes are 580EXII’s. Some are very old flashes from the 70’s or 80’s. Quite possibly (probably) without any TTL communication, no focus assist, no “model light” function, no HSS, etc. One pop at a power setting you choose, then up to 10-15 sec to recycle, on batteries or AC. Lower power will decrease recycle time, but will also yield faster flash duration which is harder/impossible to catch on an entire frame of video.

    I can see this being plausible in a still frame. I can see plausibility of it being possible to the human eye (if all flashes were the same and newer). But video cameras do not see the same as the human eye.

    The video is cool, I even like the song. but it is not straight camera flash.

  25. I’m going with real-ish.

    I think the strobing animation really was done on the camera flashes. (Which is wicked awesome) based on this other video they have linked off the end of the making of:

    But, again, based on that other video, I don’t think the band performed in front of it. Thinking it was quite possibly recorded at a different frame rate (addressing earlier noted concerns about recharge rate) and then composited with the band performing.

    As for the concerns about “why have all the cameras if you just need the flash?” my guess: product placement. It’s been showing up more and more in music videos over the last 5 years and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Canon payed a placement fee and supplied the equipment. Especially with that camera vanity shot right near the beginning.

  26. That looks extremely fake to me, I noticed that there was no glare from the camera flashes, they didn’t momentarily blind the filming camera, which seems strange to me.

  27. I doubt this is all done real-time, with the stock equipment the are showing to be using. I find the flash duration suspect, the flash-on time seems to be too long on some moments. I’m not a Canon user, but I have a Nikon SB-800 speedlight which is I guess is at least somewhat comparable with the EX580. At full power the flash lasts only 1/1000th of a second with this unit. At 1/128th power, the flash duration is reduced to a mere 1/40,000th! It also supports a sort of fast burst mode for 2-3 seconds in which is looks almost like a flash light. However, the intensity during that burst fluctuates quite a bit. I have honestly no idea how this would register on a video camera but around 3:55 in the clip when they show the slow-motion close-ups of the bandmembers, the ‘flashes’ seem te be ‘on’ for quite a while. For instance the moment when the singer closes his mouth again. No way that those flashes on the background lasts only 1/1000th of a second or produce such solid light when ‘bursting’.

  28. Looks real to me. Nothing is over the top for a production piece except possibly the cost of all the cameras and flashes. However how much of their value is gone from a few days of shooting? I wonder if Canon sponsored the shoot? We might see a huge supply of refurbished Canon gear on the market soon!

  29. I vote fake. The animations are definitely real but as a few have mentioned the flash would be far too bright for the camera to see anything and the animations run too smoothly as the ‘flashes’ seem to be on longer than not. I think every lamp has been replaced with an LED. Looks good though!

  30. Totally real. Look at the floor reflections.
    No problem with low power flash or recovery time – all that is needed for the camera to see them.

    clearly completely real.. wonderful job – hats off to them. Great idea – well executed. 10 points for Gryffindor

  31. I assumed they were using flashes with modeling lights (lower-intensity continuous lights you can use to predict where your shadows will be). I think using the actual flash bits would be pretty close to impossible in the video.

  32. As a photographer with access to those types of flashes, I can assure you it’s perfectly possible with two methods.

    First method:
    Single “shot” at high frequency. At lowest power (all you need, these things are bright), you should be able to get off maybe 15 frames before recharge and overheat issues happen (more with the newest generation). Perfect for video if you sync it to a 180 degree shutter. Actually very easy to charliplex to a large number of strobes, since all you need to do is pull down the voltage.

    Second method:
    Use the above with high speed sync, but with a 1/4s shutter speed on camera (actually have camera take a photo). Lowers resolution, but removes the 180 degree shutter requirement. Will only work for maybe 5 times before you need more time to cool the flash.

    Now, it’s likely done either with an actual strobe system, or cgi, but it’s entirely possible to do a hardware version, especially with method 1. It’ll be expensive though, rental of that many flashes alone will be $2000 or so, more like $3000 with the custom boards for multiplexing. Then again, that’s absolutely nothing compared to the cost of cgi for a music video, so sure, it’s probably real.

  33. Real. (or at least for most of the video)

    It appears they just made the flashes trigger on their lowest setting (prob 1/64). This would keep the flash from washing out the video and allow the flash unit to recharge in a very short period.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Duracell tried to use that as a battery commercial. :)

  34. DivePeak, great experiment! The only thing I could think to add to it would be the possibility of AC adapters making things even simpler.

    Agreed, totally plausible. Actually, not only plausible, but probable.

  35. It’s a combo of real pulses and “fake” pulses from some kind of supplementary lamp in a similar position or possibly in the same housing, but the rig and setup could easily be real.
    – Camera body: totally unneeded for this (I call viral ad like many others)
    – The “fake bit” there are a number of sustained flashes that are too long and clear to be multiple strobe pulses appearing to be one long flash.
    – The most damning bit is the time between flashes. After a long string of pulses the capacitors will take much longer to cycle. Even the best “pro” grade strobe would not be able to keep up with this pace.

    In any case, rather cool looking.

  36. Those are for sure 10w LEDs @ 2:53 every flash except the one in the center camera has a 10w LED in it (look on ebay for 10w leds to see the ones I’m talking about) So while they may not have used original hardware it is still impressive and I really like the concept.

  37. Looking at the site, if you watch the video they show you the photos that were taken during every flash.
    There is of course a bit of editing that has gone into that music video however I do believe that the camera wall was real.

  38. i vote fake, probably used 10 cameras and did the rest.

    Either way its an incredibly stupid waste of money. Alot of flashes have an override button, which you can easily rewire without the camera and have the same effect.

  39. THEY WANTED THE CAMERAS FOR THEIR OWN SAKE PEOPLE! lol I don’t understand the lyrics, but even if they used some other sort of strobe, they’d have to fake the cameras anyway. The pictures floating around near the end show that much.

    For some reason, it reminds me of “Who Needs Pictures”

    I loved the multiple screen effect near the end, where they made a matrix of several streams of video to make the flash matrix look even bigger. That was the coolest part of the video.

  40. Is it not possible the flash tubes were replaced with high intensity LEDs and parabolas before the shoot? While I only skimmed the comments so far and someone else may have said it, surely this is the only way you’d get those refresh rates? And those lights don’t seem to have the conventional rectangular pattern you see with a tube flash.

  41. As mentioned early in the thread, parts are real, parts are fake.

    It looks like they only have about a dozen of the cameras actually functioning to make the stop motion photography and give the impression of real cameras via the obvious reflection from the ground.

    The rest of the cameras could be there, but are not being used in the video, just props. Anyways, why would they use hundreds of real DSLR’s if they are going to shoot the freaking video in the dark?

    I don’t know how this is even a real topic of debate. Kudos to anyone who would invest in, or borrow, that many DSLR’s and then use a CGI rocker guy to close out the video.

  42. Those bigger photo flashes CAN recharge that fast. They do not reach the maximum output, but they can be triggered very fast if you set the brightness (or whatever it’s called, can’t remember) to minimum. By doing that they also pull much less current from the batteries. So i have to call this real. I can’t see what should be fake…

  43. Okay, Good!…but why the Camera ? they wanted flash to sync with the LED matrix, so best would be to use just the flash unit.
    ..and about flash recharge rate ? that can be fixed, with High current battery source, but ..why the Canon SLR Camera ?? stupid! and waste of money, instead they could have placed the camera around the band and top also and combined/stich the image to create a cool effect.

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