Cheetahs can reach speeds of 70 to 75 miles and hour, and accelerate to top speeds in less than three seconds--faster than any car is capable--making them a difficult creature to film.
Using a super high-definition high-speed camera called Phantom, National Geographic was able to capture footage of the cheetahs unlike anything anyone has done before.
The team of Hollywood stunt cameramen constructed a 400-foot long track for a remote-controlled sled on which the camera could keep pace with the running cat. The crew used Phantom to the cheetah at 1,200 frames per second, plus three other cameras in sequence capturing the footage at a relative crawl of just 42 frames per second. (By way of comparison, IMAX is filmed at 48 fps.)
The shoot took place at the Cincinnati Zoo over three days with five different cheetahs. Even a cheetah expert such as zoo Cat Ambassador Program founder Cathryn Hilker was impressed.
"I've watched cheetahs run for 30 years,” she said “But I saw things in that super slow-motion video that I've never seen before.”
The Cincinnati Zoo was chosen for the project because they had a number of cheetahs that had grown up running, rather than cooped up in a small pen. One of the cats, a female named Sara, broke a world record for the 100-meter dash.
She ran it in just 5.95 seconds.
Eat your heart out, Mr. Bolt.