A Bullet Time Video Booth You Can Build

[Sebastian Staacks] built a video booth for his wedding, and the setup was so popular with family, that it was only fitting to do one better and make some improvements to the setup, Matrix-style. The “bullet time” video effect was introduced by the classic movie franchise and makes for a splendid video transition effect for video montages.

Hardware-wise, the effect is pretty expensive, requiring many cameras at various angles to be simultaneously triggered, in order to capture the subject in a fixed pose with a rotating camera. Essentially you need as many cameras as frames in the sequence, so even at 24 frames per second (FPS), that’s a lot of hardware. [Sebastian] cheated a bit, and used a single front-facing camera for the bulk of the video recording, and twelve individual DSLRs covering approximately 90 degrees of rotation for the transition. More than that is likely impractical (not to mention rather expensive) for an automated setup used in as chaotic an environment as a wedding reception! So, the video effect is quite the same as in the movies, as this is a fixed pose, but it still looks pretty good.

A Pico-W hidden in there providing a BT connected interface button

[Sebastian] did consider going down the Raspberry Pi plus Pi-cam route, but once you add in a lens and the hassle of the casing and mounting hardware, not to mention availability and cost, snagging a pile of old DLSRs looks quite attractive. Connectivity to the camera is a simple 3.5 mm jack for the focus and trigger inputs, with frames read out via a USB connection.

For practical deployment, the camera batteries were replaced with battery eliminator adapters which step-up the 5 V from the USB connection to the 7.4 V the cameras need, but the current spike produced by the coordinated trigger of all twelve cameras overwhelmed any power supply available. The solution, to be practical, and not at all elegant, is to just have lots of power supplies hidden in a box. Sometimes you’ve just got a job to do.

Reproducing this at home might be a bit awkward unless you have exactly the same hardware to hand, but the principles are sound, and there are a few interesting details to dig into, if you were so inclined.

We’ve seen a few takes on the bullet-time effect over the years. We featured a Raspberry Pi-based hack, a couple of years back, and earlier still, someone even built a rig to take bullet-time videos of Tesla coil discharges, because why not?

8 thoughts on “A Bullet Time Video Booth You Can Build

      1. I was just at the Reverend Billy Graham museum in Charlotte NC. There was a clip about an interviewer asking his wife if she believed in divorce. His wife’s sense of humor caused her to respond “Divorce.. No…. Murder… Yes” 😆🤣😂

    1. A very impressive project and solution. I just wish that I had: 1- The money to take on this project. 2- The space to work in. 3- Your knowledge of Python. 4- Your ability to debug all of the problems that crop up and solve them in a time appropriate manner. Cheers.
      Here in the US I was unable to locate ANY Canon’s 40D with lens’s lens for under $45 Congratulations, Not only are you a great maker but you are a good shopper as well!!!

  1. I believe they added frames to the movie by morphing between frames. And creative idea by saying the camera rotates to the guests on the other side of the wall. Great result!

  2. The use examples in the video were rather underwhelming, and because of that seem to indicate the result don’t justify the cost.
    I’ve seen wigglegrams aplenty that were much more impressive and enticing, so perhaps just doing the 3 small lenses on one camera trick is more worth an effort and cheaper (even when throwaway cameras are priced insanely at the moment, I mean 20 Euro for something that is expensive at 3 Euro.. )

    The actual usefulness of a bullet-time setup is only there if you make (semi-)professional movies. And can place the thing in a green-screen environment.

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