July 2, 2013

How to Make a Semi-Bullet Time Rig with a Ceiling Fan and a GoPro

There aren't many things cooler than a really well-done bullet time sequence, which is probably why we like to cover it so often. If you've seen our other bullet time posts, both on the technological advances of multi-viewpoint camera setups and DIY rigs, then you might've been bummed out that the technology is either unavailable, too expensive, or too time-consuming. But, here's some good news. Though currently you can't make a legit bullet time rig without using lots of cameras, setup, and time, you can get something close to it by using a 2x4, screws, a GoPro, and a ceiling fan -- and the result will look great for your low-budget projects. Hit the jump to see how.

Photographer, videographer, and all-around creative guy Jeremiah Warren posted this DIY tutorial on his blog. Now, before we go any further, technically what Warren captures isn't bullet time -- it's a 360 degree slow-mo shot, but the shot is awesome. The first thing that came to my mind was that if you choreographed it right, you could possibly do faux-bullet time with a series of movements and freezes by your subject as the camera makes its rotations. It wouldn't be The Matrix, but it'd be interesting to try on your low-budget film. Or you could always just do some cool shots with the rig as is. Check out his video below to see what he was able to capture with his rig.

The construction of the rig is pretty simple. Warren was kind enough to elaborate on its construction:

I wanted to be able to film people inside the rig, so I had the idea of mounting it like a normal ceiling fan in order to capture subjects inside the radius of the fan blades. The biggest “engineering” problem was figuring out where to suspend the fan. I found two trees that were the perfect distance apart and mounted a 14 foot 2x4 between the trees. I spliced the fan into a speed regulator and hooked that into an extension cord so I could plug it into a power source. The GoPro was attached to the fan blade via a section of thin pine wood that hinged off the end of one of the blades. I fastened a section of wire between the fan blade and the pine wood, so I could regulate how far out the camera could go.

Warren does us a solid by sharing a list of materials with the tutorial, so building your own should be a snap. Watch the video below to learn how to build one of these things, and then jump down to find the materials you're going to need as well as how much it cost him to make.

This comes straight from Warren's blog post:

Cost Breakdown

  • 8 foot 16 gauge extension cord: $10.47
  • Assorted wingnuts: $2.91
  • Deck screws: $9.37
  • 14 foot 2×4: $6.58
  • Lag screw (attached fan to the board): $0.24
  • Utility hinge: $1.67
  • Utility bolts: $0.97
  • 1 inch x 3/8 inch pine wood: $5.52
  • Ceiling fan: $24.99
  • Speed regulator and recessed wall box: Under $15 for both, I lost the receipt for these items

So, for around $80 (not including the GoPro) you can build a rig that isn't all that pretty to look at, but gives you an interesting shot. And I'm sure there are plenty of you out there who could add to and modify it to adapt it to other cameras -- though I'm not sure who would be willing to strap their expensive cameras and lenses to a ceiling fan. Warren told us that he made his rig after he was inspired by the one made in this video by Mark Rober.

What do you think about Jeremiah Warren's DIY rig? Can you see yourself utilizing something like it for your own projects? Have you ever made something similar? Let us know in the comments.

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9 Comments

I really like both ideas!

i think the second one would be better for more of time lapse type setting where as the first would be easier to utilize in a film. I think the second one would be AMAZING for a commercial. I am really excited to try it out.

July 2, 2013

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Chris

It could probably be done with a bicycle too ... except you'd need either an electric bike or a designated pedal pusher.

July 3, 2013

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DLD

First one is great.

Second one seems entirely pointless

July 3, 2013

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Fresno Bob

what frame rate and resolution?

July 3, 2013

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shaun wilson

Have to agree, 2nd one looked so pointless, why put in all that effort for nothing?! It may have been worth it for the last few seconds though!
First one I digged but surely there are easier ways than mounting a huge ceiling fan?...

July 3, 2013

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Well. On the behind the scenes of the first Matrix they did mention that they were seriously considering putting a slow-mo 35mm camera on a rocket-cart before they settled with the tiny bit safer option of repurposing the technique of Edweard Muybridge. So it's interesting that the lowest budget option is what they were thinking of in the first place for the movie that made the gimmick popular.

Now, a slow-mo camera of 35mm negative size that shoots upward to 300 fps (about the limit back in the days) did have some trouble with shredding the filme that it pulls through even in the best of days... adding the g-force of a rapidly accellarating rocket-motor would make it even more likely to fail I think. Not to mention the dangers of having that kind off mass flying through the studio set at that speed.

Again. Its funny how easy this sollution became with the advent of GoPro's. The third edition even shoots decent quality 120 fps 720p video. And the latest firmware gave the option of cropping the sensor to get a narrower view... So I'll definately will keep this solution in mind when I need something like bullet-time on a next-to-nothing budget. :)

July 3, 2013

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Lets hope the man did not burn down the Forest after firing rockets into it !

July 5, 2013

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Dheep'

I just found this article today but I did something similar about a month ago! My issue is that the fan is not powerful enough. One rotation is taking about 4 seconds... I would like it to do one rotation in 1 sec. Additionally, I want it to have a 16' radius.... I have found a old lawn mower and I am welding up a big arm / weight system... probably going to die... stay tuned.

here was my attempt at this project featured here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5PRFDzcDtU

September 30, 2013

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After seeing this guy's video, we made our own version. Pretty cool when you use it for player intros at arenas!
http://www.sonburst.com/bullet-time-gopro/

February 10, 2014

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