Do you think that’s meat you’re eating?
When Mr. Sato heard that Matrix 4 was in the works he got very excited to return to all the fun and adventure of the film’s dystopia of mechanical oppression. Even better, he will be able to get an eyeful of the bullet time optical effect that was pioneered in the first film.
▼ That’s when, you know, time appears to stop for
a moment while the camera pans to another angle.
Having watched all the DVD extras, Mr. Sato knew that this effect was made by a string of cameras at multiple angles going off in sequence over a fraction of a second. It seemed simple enough to pull off as long as you had enough cameras. But nowadays, everyone carries around a camera or two, and with people upgrading their smartphones every couple of years, its really easy to get a stockpile going.
So, Mr. Sato decided not to wait for Matrix 4, and start making his own bullet time shots instead.
He gathered a bunch of iPhones, downloaded and app called SV Cam that synced them all together, and got to work.
Well, that sucked.
However, as they say, every failure is an opportunity to learn, and we learned an awful lot from such an awful failure. The biggest setback was that he was using different models of iPhone, each with different cameras, resolutions, and camera positions, which messed with the angles and resulted in the drunken blur we just witnessed.
So for his next attempt, Mr. Sato used only fifth generation iPhones (5, 5s, and SE) to achieve a little more consistency.
That was a lot better! But there was still room for improvement.
On the second attempt, Mr. Sato had just eyeballed the camera angles and spacings. If he could make them more precise, then perhaps the result would be even smoother!
This would require a more sophisticated rig, so Mr. Sato headed to the 100 yen store and picked up some adjustable smartphone stands.
While there, he found another tool that would completely revolutionize his bullet time rig: a triangle ruler!
Using the triangle he marked off 30-degree intervals for each of his seven iPhones to be installed and lines to ensure their angles all converged on a single point.
The array covered a range of 180 degrees, and the stage was set for Mr. Sato’s ultimate bullet time shot.
Everyone and their grandmother has done the old vertical leap, and most grandmothers have done it better than Mr. Sato ever could. So instead he wanted to bullet time an act that he excelled in: eating Cup Noodles.
He only had one shot at this, because two Cup Noodles would have given him a wicked tummy ache. Mr. Sato tried to get in the zone and thought to himself, “There is no soup.”
For the full effect, Mr. Sato’s bullet time ramen should be viewed with the Matrix music playing in the background.
▼ Here we go!
Whoa baby!!! That was… that’s… that kind of sucked too.
I mean, it wasn’t terrible, but it just looked like a regular video of Mr. Sato eating ramen. The same effect could have been pulled off by someone moving the camera around his face with their hand.
The problem here lied in the action. Mr. Sato was slurping noodles at the moment of the bullet time, but he could have just as easily — actually more easily — stopped slurping for a moment, so there wasn’t really an illusion to be seen.
▼ Had that wad of noodles been flung into the air during the bullet time, it would have made a world of difference.
With the right setup of about 240 high-quality cameras and good lighting, this shot would have been really sweet and shown the frozen steam coming off the noodles in all its 3-D, HD glory.
That being said, as our second attempt had shown, with our crappy seven-phone setup, you can still get a decent effect off a highly dynamic action like juggling or pole dancing.
So, in conclusion, if you ever want to pull off a DIY bullet time shot, remember that it is crucial to balance the detail of the performer’s action with the equipment at your disposal.
Huh. We actually learned something this time around, didn’t we? I guess it’s bound to happen every once in a while.