Behind the Scenes of a Bullet Time Photo Shoot

The concept of bullet time is nothing new. If you have seen the gravity-defying (and seemingly physics defying) shot in The Matrix where the character played by Keanu Reeves dodges a bullet, you already know what I am talking about. It’s nothing more than several cameras capturing a perfectly timed shot of a moment that when played back, makes time seem frozen. You could literally show the protagonist from all sides. The concept is exciting:

The Swiss Radio and TV station SRF used 50 Canon EOS-1D X cameras to produce two stunning bullet time shots for their program Sommer-Challenge. One was shot indoors and the other outdoors.

bullet camera indoor shot

Indoor Still Shot Captured Using the Bullet Time Technique

The Technical Challenge

Although the concept is simple, the technical aspect of it is not. The fact that a total of 50 EOS-1D X’s were used meant that the technical challenge was magnified by a factor of 50. Each camera had to be set precisely the same way to rule out visual jerks in the final clip.

Setting Up the Cameras

setting up for bullet -time shoot

Setting up 50 DSLR cameras was a huge task in itself.

Simply unpacking the cameras and attaching the lenses was a huge task in itself. The working space was quickly filled up with a sea of camera gear. Then there were the technical aspects, such as setting the picture quality and ensuring that the camera didn’t switch off automatically after one minute (a default feature of the cameras). To prevent the resulting images from “skipping”, the 50 cameras had to be mounted on a rig and with precise horizontal alignment.

alligning for bullet-time effect

Each camera had to be aligned perfectly to avoid visual jerks in the final clip.

Finally, the cameras were connected to a remote trigger. This enabled the crew to trigger all of the cameras at once and create the bullet time effect.

remote trigger for bullet-camera shoot

This remote trigger was used in the shoot to trigger all cameras at once.

The outdoor shot was even more challenging. The crew had to photograph a bungee surfer skimming over the water. The effect they were after was a single camera moving around the surfer while he was doing the trick.

outdoor bullet-camera shoot

The outdoor bullet time shoot involved a bungee surfer.

They needed to pre-focus their cameras, and the lack of natural focusing point meant they had to suspend a reference point where the cameras could focus. The surfer had to time the trick at that exact point, as well.

All this work produced very short clips of bullet time, but the awesome results are worth every second.

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One Comment

  1. Great video on how you have created these beautiful photographs. A hidden gem in the video is the cute five year old little girl (at 4:00 min) that appears to be reviewing the storyboard for the shoot. Nice touch, well done.

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