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Amateur filmmaker builds 'bullet time' rig for less than $100

By dpreview staff on Jul 2, 2013 at 02:05 GMT

Ever wanted to add a little spice to your video creations, perhaps your next Matrix fan-fiction video, by adding a little slow-motion bullet-time effect? Jeremiah Warren did just that, employing a ceiling fan, a GoPro 3 video camera, and a handful of bits of wood, effectively side-stepping thousands of dollars worth of individual cameras and rigging, not to mention computer-controlled timing equipment.

The so-called 'bullet time' effect was made popular in movies like The Matrix, and requires a bank of cameras, all synchronized perfectly, and untold hours of post-production work to achieve the final polished result.

As Warren notes on his blog: 'The obvious 'cheat' to this is to get a high speed camera and build a rig that will spin it around the subject, but this also has limitations. High speed cameras are still expensive, they weigh a lot, and building spinning rigs out of metal is also expensive'.

Here's the ceiling fan, costing $24, which Warren attached to a 14-foot length of planking.

Photo: Jeremiah Warren 
And here's the GoPro, firmly attached to one blade of the ceiling fan with another plank of wood.

Photo: Jeremiah Warren

So instead, Warren decided to hook a GoPro 3, which can shoot video up to 240fps, up to a ceiling fan, to spin around his subjects, filming at high-speed. Warren details how he built the rig, including an approximate cost breakdown of around $93 in parts (not including the GoPro 3 Black, which retails for $400), in his blog. You can see an appropriately dramatic video from the homemade rig below.

And no, we do not recommend doing this at home. Especially not the fireworks part. But really any of it.  

 

Comments

Total comments: 57
bajanshutterbug
By bajanshutterbug (9 months ago)

Brain switched on. Take bow, Jeremiah!

0 upvotes
WinkleJon
By WinkleJon (9 months ago)

The first bullet time rich was used a year before the Matrix's 1999 release in Lost In Space.

This rig is more like a motorized 360 degree dolly rig and is not Bullet Time. The later uses multiple cameras fired at the same time to create the effect of a moment freezing g while the POV pans around the subject. A short while ago I did see some online footage of actual bullet time effects using multiple GoPro cameras. The high quality-low cost video of GoPro combined the light weight that makes rigging cheaper and easier, these multi-GoPro bullet time shots were far less expensive than those in the Matrix. However one cannot shoot a bullet time shot with a single camera.

4 upvotes
inevitable crafts studio
By inevitable crafts studio (9 months ago)

you are so clever

0 upvotes
FreedomLover
By FreedomLover (9 months ago)

He is talking about himself, WinkleJon. Arrogance does that to people.

Thank you for your good explanation.

2 upvotes
Sordid
By Sordid (9 months ago)

It's actually not THAT new...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEd5lTmeAH8

0 upvotes
Michael Ma
By Michael Ma (9 months ago)

Great visuals. But did the $100 budget include the fireworks?

0 upvotes
dtmoody
By dtmoody (9 months ago)

i don't think he is in danger of catching the forest on fire. looks like its his back yard/land and its pretty cleared off. 'im sure if a fire started he would have quickly put it out as well. ...anyways very cool idea indeed. thanks for sharing.

0 upvotes
FreedomLover
By FreedomLover (9 months ago)

> im sure if a fire started he would have quickly put it out as well.
First you need to detect it in time.
It can start without flames for hours.
If it was that easy we wouldn't spend billions on fire departments.

DPReview should pull the story. As it is, it's dangerous.

0 upvotes
The Photo Ninja
By The Photo Ninja (9 months ago)

Not bullet time, bullet time can freeze the action and change the angle... Think of Trinity's crane kick in The Matrix.

4 upvotes
Kevylloyd
By Kevylloyd (9 months ago)

Interesting visuals.
Just a small comment, I think "Bullet time" came from Max Payne, no?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
JWest
By JWest (9 months ago)

I believe the term was first used by the makers of The Matrix, though Warner Bros. didn't trademark the term until several years after Max Payne appropriated the concept.

2 upvotes
TeenageShutdown
By TeenageShutdown (9 months ago)

Bullet time was first used in the movie "Blade" with Wesley Snipes.

1 upvote
mrdancer
By mrdancer (9 months ago)

Can't really tell from the video, but the ground does look a little damp. Hopefully he had the foresight to do this video after a heavy rainfall, or at least heavily wet the ground in the area of the fireworks - this would negate most of the forest fire concerns. However, that message should be relayed in the video to keep redneck copycats from burning down their forests.

Btw, I think he should re-do the video with a marshmallow gun.

Comment edited 9 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
JaFO
By JaFO (9 months ago)

The people who need to be warned that this is a potentially stupid and dangerous stunt are never going to read that message (or obey its intent).

That's why there are two types of movies :
- those done by professionals
- those done by very (un)lucky amateurs

Comment edited 23 seconds after posting
3 upvotes
Mexidoc
By Mexidoc (9 months ago)

Get over yourselves.

0 upvotes
carl english
By carl english (9 months ago)

Simply brilliant.

2 upvotes
Pangloss
By Pangloss (9 months ago)

As most have commented below: the rotating fan idea is ingenious. Shooting fireworks in the forest is irresponsible.
Here are some ideas for things that he could have tried:
1. Bow and arrow.
2. Boomerang.
3. Throw a glass of water / a bucket of water.
Etc. I guess he exhausted his creative powers after he had the idea to stick a GoPro on an old ceiling fan blade. A pity really, there are lots of things that can make for interesting footage besides fireworks in the middle of a forest.

1 upvote
bushi
By bushi (9 months ago)

hell yeah! Nothing like fireworks in the forest!

apart from that apparent stupidity, great idea.

0 upvotes
Tan68
By Tan68 (9 months ago)

Casio makes cameras with higher frame rates.

A fan with bad bearings will allow other than circular path. The sound a worn out fan makes might be interesting if it is played back slow sound.

I wonder about tilting the fan a bit. The downward part of the path would be faster than the upward swing.

Before all microwaves came with rotating platters (they do now, don't they...?) you could buy wind up rotating platters. I don't remember how smooth the travel was... Maybe something like that could be mounted to the end of the ceiling fan arm. Then there would be two arcs.

If something like this type of rotating platter could be found, it might be a candidate for not-level flight. Being geared, it shouldn't have any/much difference in speed whether up- or downward travel. The question of smoothness... It was really an egg timer kind of thing sized for bowls or plates...

0 upvotes
DUSTY LENS
By DUSTY LENS (9 months ago)

Brilliant use of an old junk ceiling fan .
The fireworks power is incredible , the power of gods held in the hands of one gone bold and beyond the limits of most mortal men .

Keep driving those evil imaginary confinements out of your world and inviting the force to be with you .

I envy your style of violence .
Dusty

2 upvotes
Tan68
By Tan68 (9 months ago)

The fireworks make a good demonstration.

For parody, I wonder about rubber band guns. A rubber band bullet isn't very fast. They don't show up as well as a Roman candle bullet. If the rubber band could be painted with something that fluoresced. It could be fired along a line of black lights.

It would need to be done inside. Using a rubber band inside is safer than using a firework.

It would be easier to get a bit of 'dramatic' lighting on the rubber band bandit. Still, the rubber band wouldn't show up much, I think. Too small...

Casio, black lights (if they work), multiple lamps, microwave egg timer, and fluorescent paint. Already gone Hollywood.

0 upvotes
peevee1
By peevee1 (9 months ago)

Now, that's creative. Although with the fireworks, he could have caused a wildfire.

0 upvotes
beeps4454
By beeps4454 (9 months ago)

very innovative and well done

0 upvotes
RobertPaul1956
By RobertPaul1956 (9 months ago)

Now if he had caught the camera on fire, that would have been cool!

0 upvotes
Anepo
By Anepo (9 months ago)

To bad he did not show us an even slower video to show a "real bullet time" this was to fast to be counted even as a copy of the bullet effect.

1 upvote
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (9 months ago)

Many a time a DIY approach will save the day... good idea, this.
I hope this was recorded after some solid rain...

0 upvotes
nomad147
By nomad147 (9 months ago)

excellent results, and yeh its not true bullet time, but its pretty close, and pretty good and it doesnt cost an arm and a leg. very clever, im definitly gonna be trying this out, good job!!

2 upvotes
Artistico
By Artistico (9 months ago)

When I saw the headline I was expecting a bullet time effect, but this is not it. Rather it is a camera spinning rig with a slightly higher frame rate and a guy trying really hard to start a forest fire over and over again with different fireworks. Could easily be $100 in costs and $1,000,000,000 in damages if he succeeds.

Anyway, wouldn't it technically be really cheap to create a real bullet time effect with old - and therefore cheap - cameras and a not very high-tech way of triggering them at the same time or with a slight delay?

2 upvotes
Juck
By Juck (9 months ago)

You don't get out much, do you?

4 upvotes
Scott Birch
By Scott Birch (9 months ago)

It doesn't matter if he gets out much or not. He's right.

7 upvotes
joe6pack
By joe6pack (9 months ago)

While the hack is very impressive, I think it is irresponsible to play firework in a forest.

31 upvotes
Photo_AK
By Photo_AK (9 months ago)

Oh, c'mon, get a life ...

9 upvotes
mr.izo
By mr.izo (9 months ago)

no, it's actually a valid comment. this is very irresponsible.

21 upvotes
Walsh_uk
By Walsh_uk (9 months ago)

My mate lost an eye playing with rockets like this in 1979 when he was just 15.

My thoughts also go out to the 19 fire fighters lost in Arizona forest fires... can you imagine the horror of the guys minutes from death? Don't play with fireworks in the forest its just stupid..

I can see the claver drama of the fireworks but its promoting stupidity..

18 upvotes
jkokich
By jkokich (9 months ago)

I applaud anyone who uses their imagination and ingenuity to do things Hollywood wastes millions on, but come on, this is merely a rotating camera rig. A very well-made one, for virtually no money, but not bullet-time.

12 upvotes
Steve Ives
By Steve Ives (9 months ago)

It looks like bullet time to me. The restriction is that with the 'bullet time' rigs used in 'The Matrix etc, the camera path did not have to be circular.

But A+ for effort and the results are very good too.

3 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (9 months ago)

"bullet time" effect is nearly a still frame. It's much, much faster than 240fps.

6 upvotes
Scott Birch
By Scott Birch (9 months ago)

Bullet time is simultaneous or almost simultaneous exposures from a series of cameras, not just one. This is just rotated slow-mo.

2 upvotes
Trollshavethebestcandy
By Trollshavethebestcandy (9 months ago)

Imagination and ingenuity are more important than money it seems.

11 upvotes
alphacam
By alphacam (9 months ago)

wow - awesome!!

1 upvote
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (9 months ago)

Someone will come out with a long strand of bulbs like a Christmas light wiring, only each bulb is a camera sensor.

The shutter is triggered only ONCE in real time, then the serial "same time" shots will be processed into a video clip.

Just like 3D and Lytro, it is fantastic to play around with, but dies out after a while for lack of "usefulness".

I won.t be surprised the Christmas lights Matrix camera I mentioned above is cvurrently being manufactured deep inside China in time for the Christmas shopping of 2013.

Comment not edited 35 days after posting.

.

5 upvotes
JMD-70
By JMD-70 (9 months ago)

Crazy mad Hot!

0 upvotes
Juck
By Juck (9 months ago)

Brilliant,,,,, all you ' Wahh ,, Wahhh it's not real bullet time' clowns can lick it,,,, who gives a damn if there's no interpolation.

4 upvotes
joseluismx
By joseluismx (9 months ago)

Anyone else cringed thinking about them starting a forest fire?

14 upvotes
jvkelley
By jvkelley (9 months ago)

But it would be an awesome slow motion rotating forest fire

20 upvotes
Juck
By Juck (9 months ago)

No.

2 upvotes
CameraLabTester
By CameraLabTester (9 months ago)

Cringe? Hell Yeah! That's great forensic evidence right there in pseudo bullet time for a life sentence prison conviction if there was a blaze caused by those actions!

.

6 upvotes
eljay0
By eljay0 (9 months ago)

Fireworks in the woods - now, that's smart!

22 upvotes
Digitall
By Digitall (9 months ago)

Cool video, more DIY please, for video and photo Macgyver's :)

0 upvotes
howardroark
By howardroark (9 months ago)

Not to split hairs or anything, but that's not bullet time. Neat home project anyway.

11 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (9 months ago)

Spoilsport ;)

8 upvotes
howardroark
By howardroark (9 months ago)

LOL It's like arrow time or airplane time....something slower than a bullet.

3 upvotes
tirmite
By tirmite (9 months ago)

Clever!

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (9 months ago)

They weren't actually bullets in the Matrix, either.

3 upvotes
howardroark
By howardroark (9 months ago)

No, but you could stop motion entirely and circle the subject to watch them dodge the bullets....or slightly offset each capture for a slow motion effect. Just saying that you'd have to have a much higher frame rate to really slow things down using one camera.

6 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (9 months ago)

And that's how the arrowtime effect was invented.

2 upvotes
Boydsta
By Boydsta (9 months ago)

Again we have been shown that having the highest number of pixels or the most expensive camera has nothing to do with taking great movies or images. Makes me want to get out there and start thinking about the subject and not what camera I have in my hand.

Great effort regardless of comparisons others are making. This is not Matrix but who cares ! :D

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 57