Before tadpoles turn into frogs, they begin life as we all do: as a quivering bundle of multiplying cells. Normally, you’d need a microscope (and lots of time) to witness this developmental stage up close—but in the timelapse video above, filmed by documentary filmmaker Francis Chee, you can watch a tadpole egg split from four cells into several million in only 23 seconds.

The footage was filmed over the course of 33 hours. The process wasn’t easy: Chee had to carefully select his equipment and set up the shot, and “there are countless other variables involved in performing this tricky shot, such as: the ambient temperature during shooting; the time at which the eggs were collected; the handling skills of the operator; the type of water used; lenses; quality of camera etc,” he explains on YouTube.

In the end, Chee manages to capture the miracle of life on a microscopic level.

[h/t Gizmodo]