The Vela One Flash Is Fast Enough to Freeze Bullets

There’s nothing more festive than the sight of a bauble being blown to smithereens by a bullet. Come to that, there’s nothing more fun than a grape being blown up, too. But this kind of slow-mo photography is really hard to do. It requires patience and skill, but it also usually requires either a painfully expensive camera, or a frighteningly dangerous 25,000 volt “airgap” flash. So, one bullet-time enthusiast decided to invent his own safe, affordable strobe. Its name is the Vela One, and it has just arrived on Kickstarter.


To give some perspective, a standard flashgun lights things up for 1/20,000 second — roughly the length of time it takes a bullet to fly two inches. In comparison, the Vela’s slowest speed is 1/2,000,000 second, making it possible to freeze objects traveling at supersonic speed. No, I didn’t mistype that.

To make such magic happen, flash-maker Matt Kane had to think outside the box. Rather than use the relatively slow Xenon tube bulbs found in strobes, Kane opted for ultra-bright LEDs, which light up in a tiny fraction of a second. However, LEDs are pretty weak; you’d need 2000 ultra-bright bulbs to match the eye-watering output of a flashgun. The solution he came up with was to use nine LEDs, but boost them via some clever circuitry to twenty times above their rating. Apparently, this piece of electro-engineering is not as worrying as it sounds, causing no overheating or damage to the bulbs.


The result is a reasonably compact unit that runs “all day” on four AA batteries, and the price to Early Bird Kickstarter backers, at the time of writing, is £495 (approx. $780) — still a significant investment, but a huge saving on the alternatives.

You can find out more about the project here.

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