September 15, 2013 in Video

Fire Poi: 1000° Degree Molten Steel!

Fire Poi: 1000° Degree Molten Steel! from Tom Blackwell on Vimeo.

Here's a new long-exposure technique with lots of visual impact. In order to liven up a potentially dull Monday evening one night in March last year, I rounded up some family and friends as volunteer firemen to come and keep a watchful eye over this madcap photographic stunt.

The method involves creating "fire poi" - a little cage, suspended on a rope, which holds combustible material that is emitted when spun around at high speed. The fuel for this reaction is steel wool - a processed fibrous metal which burns at temperatures in excess of 1,000°C. As such, it's not an experiment for the foolhardy or fainthearted but is reasonably safe if you take the appropriate precautions.

This image was shot in the broad, asphalt car park of a local mill - a suitably wide open space which is free of any foliage and has a few boulders conveniently placed at the periphery - the perfect platform to get a bit of extra height and maintain distance from molten metal. Once the steel is alight and has begun to spin, a violent reaction occurs due to the large surface area of metal which rapidly combines with oxygen in the surrounding air.

I've recently spent some time learning how to process slow-mo clips more effectively, and this video represents a little remix of some early footage. I think it's turned out rather nicely indeed :-) The original video was captured at 50fps with a Canon 7D at a resolution of 1280x720p. It has been processed variously in Adobe After Effects and Premiere, notably relying on Re:Vision's superb "Twixtor" engine to assist with the slow motion.

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