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We recently featured several practical but effective techniques for creating the (by now) famous Matrix-esque ‘bullet-time’ effect — accomplished, in more than one case, by using an evenly spaced array of GoPros and some post-processing elbow grease. Clearly, the availability and portability of such cameras is catching on beyond conventional ‘action cam’ uses, and inspiring creatives of nearly any budget to create shots only A-budget Hollywood productions used to be able to pull off. GoPros make sense for such arrays, because they are forgivingly frameable (and decently affordable as far as rentals go). Now, another project has demonstrated what’s possible with these simple but adaptable cameras — in this case, built into a rig that can also be handheld.

The rig we previously mentioned used 27 GoPro HERO3s, whereas this one uses 15 GoPro HERO2s — this one sacrifices some coverage-smoothness and encompassment for even greater portability and, well, the option of actually handholding it (via PetaPixel):

You might remember PermaGrin Films’ Marc Donahue from his amazing “Dream Music: Part 2″ lyric-lapse video that took 6 hours of work for every 3 seconds of footage. We even shared a behind the scenes look at how that time-lapse was put together, complete with deleted scenes and director commentary.

Dream Music: Part 2 ultimately got some 2 million views on YouTube, but that doesn’t mean that Donahue has slowed down. His most recent project again involved putting together a unique music video, only this time it didn’t take six months to shoot. Instead of tackling time-lapse, “On Smash Live” was filmed using a hand-held bullet-time GoPro array… Working with 750 gigs of data, Donahue put three 12+ hour days into the final product, which you can see below.

What I like about this rig is that it makes possible (or more easily achievable) something I find to be missing in a lot of the DIY bullet time material that’s floating around: you can tilt the damn thing. One of the coolest aspects of bullet-time in The Matrix, to me at least, was that the camera perspective could fly free and independent of all dimensions, including height — not just freezing time and making a perfectly level horizontal-only 360 degree circle-around. And while that’s something that takes a lot more planning to perfect, certainly in a portable or even handholdable rig, I’m excited to see what crafty shooters come up with to tackle such an ambitious effect.

Granted, there’s not all that much tilting in this video either, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t used to very interesting effect, and achieved in a skillfully simple way. Check it out below — the effect is, admittedly, a bit jarring, but admirably DIY and very effective to boot:

Of course, if budget, space, and time allow, you can improve the ‘resolution’ of a bullet time effect by placing cameras even closer together — or, making the rig wider/larger and packing it tightly with camera mounts, and outfitting the cameras with a longer lens (to achieve comparable FOV) if applicable. The accessibility of software like After Effects and cameras like GoPros means anyone with the right approach can not only achieve a bullet time-sort of technique, but really specialize and customize it to your needs as well.

What do you guys think of the effect? How does its quality or use contrast to other examples of DIY bullet-time effects you’ve seen? What are some other ways you could imagine using a rig like this?

Link: Using a Hand-Held Bullet-Time GoPro Rig to Shoot a Music Video — PetaPixel


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  • While reading I thought of this video. It’s pretty similar only with more spaced cameras and in half a sphere.

  • ThunderBolt on 02.3.13 @ 10:55PM

    As a grip Dave, you’re saying that you couldn’t do this without aftereffects? Really?

    • Huh?

    • Dave Kendricken on 02.4.13 @ 10:15AM

      Didn’t think that’s what I was saying — more like, techniques such as this (and the effects such techniques can create) can be more easily achieved these days by more independent shooters/editors than ever before, partially due to the availability of things like AE, partially due to reasonably-rentable / tiny cameras, and even partially due to DIY demonstrations such as these. Again I didn’t think I was implying any single tool, old or new, magically unlocks bullet time to any of us.

      • ThunderBolt on 02.4.13 @ 11:52PM

        Which techniques, aftereffects or gopro? “The accessibility of software like After Effects and cameras like GoPros means anyone with the right approach can not only achieve a bullet time-sort of technique, but really specialize and customize it to your needs as well.” Even GoPro needs to assemble and process, don’t ya think? Cameras are only a part of the equation. The same can be done with other than tiny cameras, don’t ya think? Try english 101 and get back with an appropriate response.

        • Dave Kendricken on 02.6.13 @ 2:15AM

          You’re right, ThunderBolt! Given that I didn’t realize “Even GoPro needs to assemble and process,” I clearly need to try “english” 101, 202, and then some to speak on level ground with you. Surely a handheld bullet time rig can be created with other than tiny cameras, but tiny cameras would probably lighten the load, don’t ya think?

  • Fresno Bob on 02.4.13 @ 4:21AM

    The drumming example doesn’t really work – just looks like a speeded up tracking shot.
    I thought the idea was to freeze time?

    • Right, I also do not think ‘bullet time’ is the right expression, I am guessing it would have been bullet time if time was really frozen, meaning that it would show the same frame in time from different locations, nevertheless in this case time seems to carry on (it would probably otherwise have been difficult to keep the rhythm of the drummer synchronized) .
      Also the (seemingly) DSLR footage doesn’t seem to mix very well with the one coming from the GoPros, the difference in depth of field is too distracting. At last I kept looking at the highlight coming from the door to the right of the drummer, it keeps going up and down that pillar indicating the different moments in time the shots where made due to the inclination of the sun.
      Sorry, I did not want to trash the video, I think its a great idea and the reason I watched it is because I really like this type of ‘bullet time’ rigs, its only those small details that I feel could have potentially improved the overall look of the clip…

      • I have to agree, the whole idea behind the moniker ‘bullet time’ is that we slow time down to the how it would be if we could see a bullet travelling. Which you could do with this rig, but wasn’t done in the example.

  • They don’t seem to have realised that they needed to interpolate the frames to get smooth motion between viewpoints.

    • It’s a look. Like the Offspring video someone posted earlier. The jumpy cuts worked with the music, in my opinion. I don’t think it would have had the same effect if it was smooth.

      And if they really wanted smooth motion, like Dave said, they would need more cameras, not necessarily better interpolation of the frames.

  • This is pretty cool. Been enjoying your posts, Dave. It’s cool how each author for nofilmschool has their own voice, topics to post on, and style of writing. Y’all keep up the good work.

  • on 02.4.13 @ 10:40AM

    A little while back someone had posted a music video he had done using a similar setup, but I’ll be damned if I can remember who it was or what the video was. I remember it was rather interesting, though I wasn’t a fan of the music.

  • Better execution and editing IMO

    • c.d.embrey on 02.4.13 @ 9:42PM

      Some-one got it right!!! Technique is NOTHING without imagination and talent. The editing is excellent … whoever did the editing is an editor, not some-one who know how to use an editing program.

    • Much better implementation of the effect! But they also most likely had several more cameras.

    • I love how OK GO has always had innovative music videos just to distract us from their subpar music!

  • Pretty epic go pro rig in this surfvideo, hand held, in the water and on Jet skis…. Some twix distortion but pretty legit done in 2011. I think this effect has to be used in moderation to really get what you need out of it.

    and the bts

    • c.d.embrey on 02.4.13 @ 9:54PM

      The the shot that starts at about 2:444 and goes to 2:48 is awsome (an over-used word that reakky does apply here). A job well done!

      I would mid seeing more of this for certain action sports.

      • The white balance seems to be different on every other go pro in this rig. I wonder why they didn’t correct that better in post. Doesn’t look to me like they wanted to keep this as an effect, because it really makes the bullet time shots less awesome…

  • It is a little jarring for me but still fits the music fairly well.

  • Jesus Beltran, a director I work with did this 4 years ago, he engineered and had a rig manufactured out of aluminum. A DIY bullet time rig. We came to the same conclusion, more cameras are needed and it works in moderation.

  • I’m pretty sure the Matrix froze time, not moved the ‘camera’ around a thing really badly.

  • Im more interested to the handheld video screen he was holding, rather than the go pro rig! Any ideas what it was?

  • Pretty neat. I did something similar on a linear track, experimenting with a breakdancer last year – used only 12 cameras, but worked a lot with Twixtor in post to make up for the difference. Here are some of the results:

  • Russell Steen on 08.9.13 @ 10:15AM

    At NAB last year I spoke with the GoPro guys about making “bullet time” GoPro cameras that were modular. My thought was if you had a 6 (arbitrary number) lens/sensor rig that could snap on to another rig and another etc., perhaps even each single 6 sensor rig being on a somewhat flexible arm with a water proof connector (like a boat trailer light connector), you could make up bullet time rigs like string lights, with lots of choices about the angle and number of cameras. It seemed to me such a rig could also be designed shorten the time needed to sync the shots in post, but I’m not familiar with the issues of recording from multiple sensors.
    Their response was, “Eh”, so I assume there are variables I haven’t considered.
    I thought it wouldn’t take much to get from the hardware they already have to a design like I described, but I’m no expert on how much demand for such a rig would be. I guess as long as people are willing to buy the cameras as built and make their own rigs, it doesn’t make sense to add a dedicated “bullet time” product.