January 11, 2013

How to Make Your Own Portable DIY Bullet Time Rig

When you hear the term "bullet time," you probably can't help but think of The Matrix. And if you've taken a gander at the behind the scenes footage from that film or similar productions, then you know that's it's an effect usually done in large warehouse studios, with a multitude of cameras on a huge rig, and run by a sizable crew, which all adds up to being quite expensive. Even renting a bullet time rig will more than likely be cost prohibitive, but with some elbow grease you can put together your own portable rig at a more indie friendly price:

Here's the rig the people at Indy Mogul put together for a music video they worked on:

And here's an example of what can be accomplished on a somewhat similar rig with 24 DSLR's:

https://vimeo.com/55566188

What I like about Indy Mogul's setup, is that they bypass the common problem of triggering each of the cameras simultaneously using a fairly simple method. For those cameras that don't record audio when shooting slow motion you could ostensibly sync them manually, using the clapper as a guide to sync your shots visually. However, if you want to do a long exposure to add light painting effects as in the above video -or just want the latitude that working with a series of RAW images would give you in post- you won't be able to avoid building a trigger system. For instructions on how to accomplish this, and for more details on putting together the rig itself, I suggest checking out "How to Enter the Ghetto Matrix (DIY Bullet Time)" on Instructables. The tutorial is a bit dated (circa 2007), but all the construction information is still relevant, and the instructions for assembling the shutter control switch box could be adapted for remote shutter releases on more current cameras.

As for the expenses involved, the cost of the parts in the Indy Mogul rig would run about $300 (assuming you have all the necessary tools already). Of course the biggest cost is going to be renting cameras. Assuming you're going to rent the same number of cameras as Indy Mogul (27) for a few days, you're looking at a little over $1,000 to about $1700 for renting GoPro 3's (not including shipping). If you're looking to go with DSLR's instead, this number balloons to about $3,000 to $4,000 and possibly more, all depending on where you rent from, and which model of DSLR and lens you decide to go with.

The speed of your bullet time shot is also a factor that will affect your cost, as it will take more cameras to achieve smooth motion in a shot that rotates around the subject more slowly. There is the possibility of using After Effects or Final Cut Pro to squeeze out some extra frames from your bullet time footage to make it smoother -but depending on the number of cameras used- this could result in unwanted visual artifacts being introduced into the resulting footage.

Granted, this setup isn't exactly cheap, but it's substantially less than renting a bullet time rig and/or studio space. However, if you want to take this a step further, Peta Pixel has a nice overview of how to build a 50 camera bullet time rig in a small space. Have you ever built/used a rig like this, or used frame interpolation on bullet time footage? If so, what was your experience?

Links:

[via FilmmakerIQ]

Your Comment

19 Comments

(my first post ever!)
I actually did something a bit similiar for a music video in 2011. We had between 6 and 12 cameras on a rig, and worked with that. The result was cool, but the edit was absolute hell!
Here's the vid, the 12 camera action starts at 58 seconds.

January 11, 2013

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sorry, link missing:
https://vimeo.com/36033327

January 11, 2013

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Dude, great use of that kind of technique!

January 11, 2013

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DIYFilmSchool.net

That was awesome. Looked great.

January 11, 2013

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Jason

thanks!

January 11, 2013

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Awesome!
That editing must have been soooo time consuming

January 11, 2013

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Luke

Ha ha. COOL!

January 17, 2013

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Terence Kearns

I'm surprised how relatively inexpensive it was to rent the GoPros. I think that's a fair trade for the kind of effect you get.

I'm a huge fan of Eric Pare and what he does with light, so it's great to see him showcased here.

January 11, 2013

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DIYFilmSchool.net

A cheaper/cooler way (in my opinion) is to do the buffalo 66 method, so have the actors stand in the desired position as still as possible, then take an epic or something that can do 120-150fps and record and jerk the camera around them quickly. when you play it back at 24 it is perfectly slow

January 11, 2013

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john jeffreys

That can work in some situations but sometimes you need something faster and safer. For example, you can't go a full 360 degrees around a shattering wine bottle if you are holding the camera.

January 11, 2013

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Gareth

true. I suppose you can build some kind of circular track, though. But then it would get too expensive.

January 14, 2013

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john jeffreys

Here is the new video done with the 360 rig:
https://vimeo.com/57181398

January 11, 2013

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I rented 12 GoPro's to test something like this,

I ran into a huge problem with the image of each GoPro having a different color temperature and some where sharper than others. I hate that you can't have a manual white balance with the Hero 2's

I did however have amazing luck with Twixtor, I was able to make the effect last around 3 seconds pretty smoothly, when you think about 12 cameras, being 12 frames, with no interpolation that would be half a second.

I hope I can get some money to revisit this with Hero 3's hahaha

January 11, 2013

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Aaron G

This effect is also known as a Time Slice or Time Splice effect. Here are some links to some other, similar set ups I've seen, with slightly better execution than the Indy Mogul shots (no disrespect to them).

Rip Curl did a massive campaign for their Mirage board shorts using this technique, in conjunction with Timeslice Films. In this first one, they used 30 odd GoPros.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=d0x52u2yzgI#!
BTS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jmGNwqKH2Yk
Article: http://www.core77.com/blog/technology/rip_curl_time-slice_camera_array_c...

In this one, they used 51 T2i's.

video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZlZPmABrLu8

January 11, 2013

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I think the effect is fantastic, and would love to try it myself but I need to find 20-30 mates with 60D/7D/5D and the same uniform lens, or 20-30 GoPros to be able to pull it off.

You'll notice that there's quite a bit of distortion in the surfing shots with the GoPro, because of the fish eye and water droplets that have caught on each individual camera, but the editors have done a good job of blending those.

There's something quite unnatural about the look of the T2i's, though. It's not as smooth as the alignment for the Matrix.

Can't wait to get paid to have fun with gear like this.

January 11, 2013

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Nice work Hannu. I can see how much of an editing nightmare that must have been, but you pulled it off well.

January 11, 2013

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Granville

I recently did a clock themed video with 12 dslr cameras and 10mm lenses setup. It was a ton of work but in the end I'm really happy with how it turned out. I did a blog and making of video.

http://collideentertainment.com/2012/12/12/diy-12-camera-bullet-time/

January 11, 2013

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On the 24x360 project, we also tried to add some morphing between shots (with fantamorph and morpheus), to fake additionnal cameras, but the result is nowhere close to what could be achieve with a higher density camera (more cameras, or less angles covered).

For the budget you mentioned, there are many more things to consider when going with dslrs: usb hubs, custom made release cable, ball heads, softwares (Breeze DSLR-Pro for example, which cost 100$ per camera!)... it's huge ::)

January 14, 2013

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The HERO3 black edition remote can control up to 50 cameras at once via wifi.

January 18, 2013

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Terence Kearns