Bullet Time: a short history between 1877 and 3D surfing

Nov 9, 2011
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Bullet Time: a short history between 1877 and 3D surfing

It's time to come back to the most awesome film effect in modern history, bullet time, originated in name by John Gaeta in The Matrix now applied most recently in several fantastically captured advertisements for surfing trunks. While the concept of bullet time in its most basic state, that being setting up a row of cameras and firing them all off one by one in rapid succession, dates back to before video was invented - Eadweard Muybridge caught a horse running on a track to prove that yes, indeed, they can have all four hooves off the ground at once. Since then several other groups have used similar techniques to attain a similar effect, and here you'll get to see how far the art of capturing a moment in time from all directions has come.

Before we move on to the surfboard videos that are rapidly becoming rather popular on the web here in this past week, I encourage you to view another great example of where the modern idea for running a camera around an object while it remains relatively still in place comes from: the intro to the cartoon Speed Racer. Near the end you'll find Speed hopping out of his car and rocking an amazing pose for you, the user, while the camera starts out front and arcs around sideways.

Since Speed's take on the situation, there've been other examples quoted here by John Gaeta who is credited, again, with the modern iteration of bullet time as made popular by The Matrix film series. This quote comes from the article "200 Things That Rocked Our World: Bullet Time" in Empire magazine number 136 from 2006, and was picked up on the wiki for Bullet Time. Note the technique:

For artistic inspiration for bullet time, I would credit Otomo Katsuhiro, who co-wrote and directed Akira, which definitely blew me away, along with director Michel Gondry. His music videos experimented with a different type of technique called view-morphing and it was just part of the beginning of uncovering the creative approaches toward using still cameras for special effects. Our technique was significantly different because we built it to move around objects that were themselves in motion, and we were also able to create slow-motion events that 'virtual cameras' could move around – rather than the static action in Gondry's music videos with limited camera moves.

Now we've got the most recent look at this situation in some rather epic looking surfing videos made to advertise surf trunks made by Mirage. These shoots are encapsulated in a couple of videos, both of them using a 30 or 52 camera array. While the final commercial (seen at the bottom of the post) is newly released, the making-of video dates back to September of 2010. Rip Curl and Timeslice Films are the first to film surfers in this way.

Looks pretty darn cool, yes? This and the spot below are for what Rip Curl says is their most advanced board shorts, made with a switchless construction in all the right areas so that you're not ripping out running down that lovely 90 foot wave this weekend. Smooth the curl! Have a peek at the final result here:

BONUS there's also a collection of surf stars appearing in that making-of video individually shown in their own videos here - enjoy!


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