The so-called bullet time effect, as seen in the 1999 movie 'The Matrix,' freezes action while simultaneously changing the angle of view. Creating the effect has always required a large array of cameras and a lot of expensive electronic components to make sure shutters are perfectly synchronized. With the technology becoming more affordable, we have seen amateurs experimenting with the technique, including one effort that used an array of 50 Nokia Lumia 1020s. Despite advances in technology, it is still expensive and time-consuming to create a bullet time scene.

Now it seems a project undertaken by Yan Wang at Columbia University could make things much cheaper and easier. Wang's team has developed an iPhone app called CamSwarm which uses a local Wi-Fi network to connect a number of smartphones, one of which must be designated as a leader. The app generates a QR-code for the leader that other users must capture with their device's camera in order to join the group.

Once the devices are connected, the app takes care of synchronizing the camera shutters. It also lets you see the footage recorded by the cameras next to yours, allowing you to make sure there is some overlap in the recording angle and the subject is a similar size in each captured frame. This ensures a smoother transition when the bullet time scene is played back. 

The app also uses the device's built-in gyroscopes and compasses to provide on-screen guidance for optimal camera spacing and positioning. By doing so the developer team reckons a bullet time sequence can be set up and shot in under one minute. Unfortunately, there is no point in getting your iPhone-owning friends together for a bullet-time party, as the app isn't yet publicly available. 

Source: MIT | Via: TNW