Possibly The Cheapest Way To Film In Bullet Time

When The Matrix hit the cinemas back in 1999 it started a minor revolution with its use of so-called “Bullet time” — a freeze-frame technique in which the action could move round a momentarily frozen subject. It’s filmed using an array of cameras in an arc, something which was pretty expensive back then but is now within the reach of almost anyone. Just how cheaply bullet time can be filmed is shown by [3DSage], who turned nine toy cameras into a budget bullet time rig.

The cameras themselves are what you might expect for the princely sum of nine dollars, but as he points out, their low-resolution video has a certain charm. Some iteration was required to produce the rig without fouling their flip-out screens, and he found that the video quality was far better than their still image quality. But eventually he was able to extract the required array of frames and stitch them together with a video interpolator for the required effect. His cat is a handsome creature from any angle, we can now reveal.

The video below the break has all the details, and while we couldn’t spot quite the same camera he used on our local version of the online shop he used, there seem to be plenty of similar cheap devices should you wish to try it for yourself. Either way, this cost much less than the previous budget bullet time contender.

19 thoughts on “Possibly The Cheapest Way To Film In Bullet Time

  1. Nice.

    I follow an account on tiktok, a studio does a lot of photoshoots with light rigs and bullettime multi-camera shots. Their stuff is pretty cool. Mostly using Canon equipment since everyone else makes it more challenging.

    1. If I remember the original Matrix rigs consistent of a few dozen Canon Rebels mounted to a rail. Which I think may mean that the bullet time was full frame with more resolution and less film grain than the motion segments around it.

  2. This might be “cheap” (in parts costs, anyway), but one of the Insta360 X-series cameras is *vastly* more practical since bullet time photography is a built-in function.

  3. I worked on that system. Typical motion pictures would vary in frame speed of about 1/4 of a frame a day. We build a very very stable oscillator that all the cameras could sync to. Then the scene was shot. All the motion picture were capturing frames at the same time.

    Post processing was done at a later time.

    Our customer won an Oscar for that special effect.

    1. I can understand the exact timing needed to make things sync.

      Do you think processing has advanced enough in the last 25 years to compensate for that frame variance given a visual cue?

      I’m thinking it would suffice for low-budget projects but high-quality projects would still need the frame sync.

  4. Those cameras gives me 808 Keychain Cameras from 15 years ago https://www.chucklohr.com/808/ vibes :)
    At the time with some luck and careful selection one could grab ~$30 720p mpeg4 camera, and $70 got you a 1080p Mobius. Covered a lot on HackaDay back then:

    Blue cameras from the hack have Mobius specs plus impressively big LCD viewfinder, all for $9 :o Amazing what 15 years of progress and commoditization gives us.

  5. The “Jungle site” has ‘SUZIYO Kids Camera, Children Digital Video Camera, Portable Camcorder for Age 3-10’

    Looks similar to me.

    $10 1080p camcorder? What a crazy world.

  6. Very neat, though disappointing that having created a bullet time rig he then doesn’t film anything with action that actually looks bullet time. I can pan round a cat sat still on a chair with any camera! Catch it mid-jump!

    1. The disappointing bit was use of AI which invalidated whole hardware aspect. AI can rotate video from two frames (start/stop) on its own without the need for anything between.

      Instead AI hallucinated random morphing backgrounds in his example shots, it looks terrible :(

      1. I saw the AI background too. But it wouldn’t be too hard (tm!) these days to get the software to do it right. OpenCV to un-distort the lenses and color correct the cameras.

        You certainly won’t get frame-sync as accurate as in the big leagues, but you could probably get pretty close. With better cameras you could shoot at 120 fps, and if you downsample to 30 fps, you could probably get away without serious frame-sync efforts?

        The software way is the cheap way! (Assuming you’ve already shelled out for the graphics card.)

      2. If youre careful, you can make this work- check out the music videos for Papa Roach “between angels and insects” and DMX’s “who we be”. Each video has a few of these shots sprinkled through them. More relevant to the post subject, check out the Offspring video for “Can’t get my head around you” . We had almost 300 mismatched video cameras running wild (not synced). Shameless disclosure, i worked on all of these…


  7. I thought the video was pretty fair.
    It was reasonably entertaining, narrated well, and edited carefully.
    Good idea for concept, overall well done.

  8. I just bought one of these because of this video. Impressive for $9. The quality is lacking a lot and while the camera claims it takes 12MP stills, it is jpeg compressed to hell and back. The video isn’t much better (probably worse). If there was a way to get the actual raw 12MP images (assuming that’s actually what they are) then this would actually be a decent/usable camera but as it is, it’s just a toy (or a source for cheap parts).

  9. A piece of PVC pipe, with one hose clamp and one piece of metal with a hole drilled in it screwed into the tripod amount of the camera and hooked under the hose clamp will perform vastly better than anything that you can 3-D print. All you have to do is bend the PVC pipe and magically all the cameras will point to the same spot. Easy Peezy.

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