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Capture bullets in flight with the first safe, affordable high-speed camera flash. Now shipping!
Capture bullets in flight with the first safe, affordable high-speed camera flash. Now shipping!
100 backers pledged £45,800 to help bring this project to life.

About

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Vela One - the fastest flash in the world

£45,800

100

Your flash is too slow

High speed photography relies on a fast flash. Just like shutter speed with action photography, it's the duration of the flash that is important when capturing bullets and explosions. A typical speedlight has a duration of around 1/20,000 second (50 microseconds) on its fastest setting. This may sound fast, but a bullet will travel over 5cm or two inches in that time and will be so blurred it's almost invisible. Studio flashes are even slower. For pin-sharp shots you need a much faster flash, and the Vela One is 100 times faster. With a flash speed starting at 1/2,000,000 second, or 500 nanoseconds, the Vela One will stop a supersonic, high velocity rifle bullet in its tracks.

It's definitely seedless now.
It's definitely seedless now.

High speed photography today

We've all seen the beautiful high speed shots of bullets passing through playing cards and apples. If you want to take these sort of photos today, you will either need a high speed camera costing tens of thousands of dollars, or a dangerous and expensive air gap flash. These use a high voltage spark to generate the short, bright flash needed. As they run at over 25,000 volts and need regular and dangerous electrode replacement, it's not surprising you can't buy them commercially. If you want one you either need to buy a vintage one for thousands of dollars, or you must build one yourself. Many super talented people have done this, but it's not an option for most of us. We wanted to solve this.

Granny smith, meet .22 LR rimfire.
Granny smith, meet .22 LR rimfire.
Passata di pomodoro
Passata di pomodoro

The Vela solution: a million lumens

To solve the problem we turned to LEDs. Until now this has been impossible, as high speed flashes need to be ridiculously bright in order to get enough light onto your sensor in such a short period. We worked out we'd need to aim for up to one million lumens. If we used regular ultra-bright (500lm) LEDs we would need around 2000 to achieve this. This is obviously far too expensive and impractical. Instead we turned to the latest "chip-on-board" LEDs. These are designed for for applications such as exterior lighting of large buildings. Even at ten times the brightness of the regular LEDs we'd need 200 of them, which is still far too expensive and impractical. This is where we had to get clever. After months of experimenting with different circuits and LEDs, we have built a circuit that drives nine LEDs up to 20 times brighter than rated, without damaging them or overheating, pumping out up to one million lumens. 

Sexy backlit shot
Sexy backlit shot

About the Vela One

The Vela One packs a million lumens into one compact and sturdy box. Encased in laser cut, powder-coated aluminium with a rugged polycarbonate front panel, it can stand up to all the shrapnel you can throw at it. Don't worry about bulky AC power supplies: the Vela One runs off the same four AA batteries as your speedlight.

Those aren't renders: it really is that sharp.
Those aren't renders: it really is that sharp.

The main chassis is laser cut, powder-coated aluminium, with an ABS rear moulding. The luminaire (lighting assembly) is protected by a tough, replaceable polycarbonate panel. This laughs in the face of most flying debris.

On all four sides there are standard 1/4-20 tripod mounts. As well as tripod mounts, they allow you to mount the Vela One in a yoke (available separately) or bolt several together Jumbotron-style. 

For power it takes four AA alkaline or NiMH batteries. One set is good for hundreds of shots, and will easily last all day.

Top feature: it won't kill you!
Top feature: it won't kill you!

For more details on the power, including GN values see this backer update.

Stretch goals!

We've hit our stretch goal!

  • ✔️£40,000: AC power input. The batteries last for ages, but once this goal is unlocked you can go on forever. We'll add a micro USB socket to power the flash from a regular phone charger.

Using Vela One

Basic crayon-destroying setup
Basic crayon-destroying setup

To trigger the flash you need some kind of external trigger. We support most camera triggers, including Camera Axe, Triggertrap Ada, Triggertrap TTv1, as well as all kinds of DIY trigger. These can be as simple as my $2 laser trigger, or more complex Arduino-based systems. For input it has standard 2.5mm and 3.5mm audio sockets, which are standard across all triggers. You can also connect several Vela One flashes together for even more power and flexibility, or link up a regular flash for fill lighting. See the portrait below for an example of that, which used Vela to light the gun and bullet, with a synchronised speedlight to light Matt.

About Vela Labs

Vela Labs is me, Matt Kane. Until earlier this year I was CTO of Triggertrap, where I spent nearly three years developing and launching loads of great photography products. Vela Labs is based in the awesome city of Bristol, England. I have worked with several talented electronics and optical engineers on the development of the Vela One, many of whom have experience working on Kickstarter projects. The gorgeous industrial design is by James Lamb from Lamb Industries. James brings over 20 years industrial design experience to the project, having been one of the first designers at Dyson and is now Royal Academy of Engineering Visiting Professor in Innovation at Brunel University in London. I first worked with him when he designed Triggertrap Ada.

Matt, engaged in some intense R&D
Matt, engaged in some intense R&D

Give the gift of Vela!

It hasn't escaped our attention that this is the season of gift-giving. As a special festive bonus, you can back the project in someone else's name and we'll send you a tasteful, printable e-card to give to them, featuring wanton destruction of a Christmas bauble. We'll send these out as soon as the project ends.

'Tis the season to shoot baubles. Tralalalala, lalalala.
'Tis the season to shoot baubles. Tralalalala, lalalala.

The plan

Our current status is that we have a prototype which has the final circuit which we will be using in the production model. The firmware is complete, save for a couple of outstanding bugfixes. We need to make a small number of changes to the PCB design (e.g. legs on the pot the wrong way around. Oops). The enclosure prototype is almost the same externally as the production version, but needs a few DFM (design for manufacture) changes inside. We're also likely to change from a magnetic to a screw-down battery cover. We kick back into gear after the Christmas break and should have those changes complete in a week or two. We will book in for EMC testing for CE and FCC marking in early January, and any extra changes will add around a week to the revision timetable.

After the final designs are approved in early February we send the samples to the factories in China and the UK and press the button on production. Lead time on these are between three and six weeks. That takes us to mid March. Add in a generous month for final testing, packaging and shipping to warehouses and we're in mid April. I've then added in another month to the estimate because hardware is hard!

If you have any questions, please do ask. We're very friendly! 

Back Vela One today and be part of a revolution in high-speed photography.

Risks and challenges

There is truth in the mantra: hardware is hard. However, experience helps. I (Matt) have nearly three years experience as CTO of Triggertrap developing and launching photography hardware, including two successful Kickstarter projects. This means I am aware of the things that can go wrong, and the steps that must be taken to mitigate this. The first and most important one is that the Vela One is already at a late stage of development. After EMC certification it is ready to go to manufacture. This removes a lot of the risk involved in projects launched at earlier stages. There do however remain some potential risks:

• Manufacturing problems and quality control. These are always a risk with manufacturing. We have in place a full testing and QC program to help prevent any upsets. I am experienced in sourcing, and have relationships with manufacturers and have inspected factories in China and Europe.

• Component availability. This product depends on some very specific parts, particularly the LEDs and capacitors. We have multiple suppliers identified with confirmed stock, as well as alternative parts identified.

• Order fulfilment. This is the thing most new project creators forget. Making the product is only part of the journey: you still need to get it into the hands of your backers. I am using very experienced fulfilment partners, who I have a working relationship with going back several years. They have worked with some of the biggest crowd funded projects ever (including a certain watch you may recognise in the video) and are experts in getting rewards to backers with the minimum of fuss.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £10 or more About $13

    HIGH FIVE! Show your support for the project and join in the discussion. You'll be first in line for pre-orders after Kickstarter, and your name will be immortalised in pure electrons on the Vela website.

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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge £25 or more About $31

    WALL CANDY! Not ready to shoot your own high speed photos? Help support Vela and receive a stunning fine art Giclée print of your choice of Vela photos. Prints are 12" x 8", printed on archive-quality paper, and ready for you to mount in the frame of your choice.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge £100 or more About $125

    CALL THE SHOTS! Not ready to shoot something yourself? Then get us to do it for you! Choose this reward and we'll shoot an inanimate object of your choice with one of our air guns, and send you the resulting photo. Maximum item cost £5, and we need to be able to get hold of it in the UK. We reserve the right to ask you to choose something else if it's not practical. If in doubt, ask. We'll send you the digital file, as well as a 12" x 8" giclée fine art print.

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    Pledge £400 or more About $500

    VIP EARLY BIRD! Grab a bargain for the very first backers. The same as the standard package, but for less.

    Includes 1x Vela One high speed LED flash.

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    Reward no longer available 10 backers
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    Pledge £450 or more About $563

    SUPER EARLY BIRD! Grab a bargain. Not quite the earliest, but you're pretty quick.

    Includes 1x Vela One high speed LED flash.

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    Reward no longer available 14 backers
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    Pledge £495 or more About $619

    EARLY BIRD! Grab a bargain. Not quite the earliest, but you're pretty quick.

    Includes 1x Vela One high speed LED flash.

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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
    Reward no longer available 19 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge £550 or more About $688

    VELA ONE (this is it). Includes 1x Vela One high speed LED flash. A bargain at a tiny fraction of the cost of a normal high speed flash.

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    8 backers
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    Pledge £800 or more About $1,001

    VIP TWINS!
    You're clearly a serious strobist. Get in there quick for a bargain. Want to shoot some big stuff? Need more flexibility? Grab a pair of Vela One flashes with an included sync cable. Bolt them together or mount them separately.

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge £900 or more About $1,126

    EARLY BIRD TWINS!
    Want to shoot some big stuff? Need more flexibility? Grab a pair of Vela One flashes with an included sync cable. Bolt them together or mount them separately. Get in quick for an even bigger bargain.

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge £990 or more About $1,238

    TWINTASTIC!
    Want to shoot some big stuff? Need more flexibility? Grab a pair of Vela One flashes with an included sync cable. Bolt them together or mount them separately.

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    Pledge £1,750 or more About $2,189

    QUADS!
    4 x Vela One flashes. Sync them all with the included interconnect cables.

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    Pledge £3,900 or more About $4,878

    NONUPLETS! For when you really need your megalumens. Nine Vela One flashes, with interconnects. Connect them in a huge 3x3 bank, or mount individually or anything in between.

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Funding period

- (23 days)