Client: National Geographic Magazine

National Geographic Photo Editor Susan Welchman asked us to capture a speedy robot caterpillar on video and in a still photograph.

The GoQBot, a “soft-bodied” robot, developed by researcher Huai-Ti Lin at Tufts University, is modeled on a real caterpillar that may be the fastest low-roller in the world. To avoid a predator, the caterpillar curls into a donut shape and shoots over the ground at top speed. It all happens in a fraction of a second.

In order to get enough frames in this tiny amount of time, we decided to use video instead of a stills camera.  Shooting 60fps, we were able to pull out individual shots of each moment of the roll.

Huai-Ti was the perfect collaborator. Having created the GoQBot, he had great suggestions on how best to record its actions. GoQBot couldn’t leave the lab so we ran lighting rehearsals in our studio with a dummy worm. We built a miniature set to give a sense of distance traveled. On the day of the shoot, we moved our lighting and set into the tiny lab. Huai-Ti had the GoQBot curl and roll again and again until we recorded an “escape” that we all liked.

That same day we interviewed Huai-Ti and the project’s director Barry Trimmer. The photographs appeared in National Geographic magazine and the video on the magazine’s website.