How to create a DIY Matrix bullet time/time slice rig using a ceiling fan and a GoPro

For July 4th I created the following video of fireworks.

I’ve always been fascinated by the time slice technique (also known as “bullet time”). Probably the most famous version of this comes from a scene in the first Matrix film where Neo dodges a series of bullets. To capture this look the filmmakers set up an array of cameras that fired off at high speeds in sequence. After a lot of work interpolating frames (creating frames between frames) using an in-house software program (now known as Twixtor), they were able to achieve  the final effect.

I’ve always wanted to try this, but you need an array of cameras, and cameras are expensive.

The obvious “cheat” to this is to get a high speed camera and build a rig that will spin it around the subject, but this also has limitations. High speed cameras are still expensive, they weigh a lot, and building spinning rigs out of metal is also expensive. A friend sent me  a video by Mark Rober who came up with the idea of using a ceiling fan as the spinning rig, and a GoPro 3 for the high speed camera (which shoots up to 240fps). I decided to implement this idea, but instead of mounting the fan upside-down, mount it the correct way so I could film larger subject matters.

Here is a video showing how I did it.

The ceiling fan was purchased from Lowes, it was one of two left on sale for $24.00. The fan is attached to a 14 foot 2×4 (if I did it again I’d use a 2×6).

Wiring was pretty simple. Two were for the fan, one was for the grounding, and a fourth was for the light, so I didn’t hook that one up.

The orange cord came from the fan and connected with the blue control box. The black cord came from the blue control box and hooked into the power source.

I used a section of 1 inch pine wood to attach my GoPro to the fan blade (via a hinge).

My GoPro was attached to the pine wood with a 3M GoPro stick mount. They are VERY sticky, but I super glued it on just to be safe.

Cost breakdown

8 foot 16 gauge extension cord: $10.47

Assorted wingnuts: $2.91

Deck screws: $9.37

14 foot 2×4: $6.58

Lag screw (attached fan to the board): $0.24

Utility hinge: $1.67

Utility bolts: $0.97

1 inch x 3/8 inch pine wood: $5.52

Ceiling fan: $24.99

Speed regulator and recessed wall box: Under $15 for both, I lost the receipt for these items

Bonus GIFs

71 Comments

  • Brian
    July 1, 2013 - 3:19 PM | Permalink

    Jeremiah,
    Great looking footage! The rig is fantastic, well done. Would you mind telling me about the camera settings you used on the GoPro?

    Thanks

    Brian

    • jeremiahjw
      July 1, 2013 - 4:25 PM | Permalink

      Thank you! I used the WVGA settings on my GoPro 3 to shoot at 240fps.

      • Alan
        July 4, 2013 - 8:50 PM | Permalink

        awesome!! didn’t know that you could shoot at that speed!! thx!

        • Makofoto
          July 9, 2013 - 3:20 AM | Permalink

          How about trying 120 at 720 and then “transferring” at say 30 fps using CineForm … to get a virtual 480 … or 60 for 240 … which does seem to be a good speed choice.

          No need for a counter weight on the fan?

          • jeremiahjw
            July 9, 2013 - 4:44 PM | Permalink

            It would have a fake look to it with virtual frames added

  • July 1, 2013 - 3:57 PM | Permalink

    Brilliant!

    I remember the first time I figured out how to make a cheap steadycam-esque rig. I was so excited. This is awesome. Nice tutorial.

  • Tim
    July 1, 2013 - 4:38 PM | Permalink

    Very nice and well done.

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  • Marcus
    July 1, 2013 - 8:44 PM | Permalink

    The footage is surreal..

    Talking about “bullet-time”: Guys are also using 240 fps Scope-mounted cameras mounts to image flight-path of shots from air-rifles onto the target.

    Because the pellets travel only at 600-900 ft/sec, the pellets are visible for thru the ‘scope for substantial part of flight.

    • Semper Why
      July 2, 2013 - 6:54 PM | Permalink

      I took a long range rifle class in May and under the right conditions you can see the bullets fly to the target. It would be an interesting challenge to get that on video. It is hella cool, as you can see the shockwave left by the bullet and the path isn’t quite what you would expect.

      (alas, “right conditions” involves 600 yards, sun at the right angle, a powerful spotting scope and copper jacketed bullets).

  • Ronnie Clifton
    July 1, 2013 - 11:10 PM | Permalink

    How fast was the fan spinning?

    Brilliant stuff, man.

    • jeremiahjw
      July 2, 2013 - 12:42 AM | Permalink

      2-3 times a second.

  • July 1, 2013 - 11:43 PM | Permalink

    What type of post work did you do to the footage? Twixtor? Any advice on settings?

    • jeremiahjw
      July 2, 2013 - 12:42 AM | Permalink

      I didn’t do any post work (other than a basic curves adjustment).

  • Noah Fect
    July 2, 2013 - 12:26 AM | Permalink

    What’s with the Mozart? Couldn’t get the rights to ‘O Fortuna’?

    • jeremiahjw
      July 2, 2013 - 12:43 AM | Permalink

      Not what I wanted

  • Pingback: Bullet Time Fireworks with a GoPro and a Ceiling Fan « Random Ramblings of Rude Reality

  • July 2, 2013 - 6:43 AM | Permalink

    Excellent idea and well executed. Tutorial is top notch too. Thanks.

  • chris
    July 2, 2013 - 7:45 AM | Permalink

    great work, love it!!

    btw, what is the nice music in the background to your main video ?
    if you have the CD, i wonder who performed it and of course what the piece of church music is.

  • July 2, 2013 - 7:47 AM | Permalink

    Very cleaver way to produce a Bullet Time effect without using hundreds of GoPros ! Nice DIY Jeremiah !

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  • July 2, 2013 - 10:54 AM | Permalink

    Excellent!

    I build many of my own props and rigs.
    What a great idea you did.

    Paul

  • Cecil
    July 2, 2013 - 1:07 PM | Permalink

    I was thinking you would need a similar piece of wood on the opposite fan blade as a counterbalance. Did you have any wobble issues with only one side weighted?

    • jeremiahjw
      July 2, 2013 - 1:16 PM | Permalink

      Slight wobble

      • Bryan
        July 8, 2013 - 8:10 PM | Permalink

        Counter balance with a second go-pro!

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  • July 2, 2013 - 3:50 PM | Permalink

    Awesome video! Even after reading the title I still did not feel like the camera was riding a ceiling fan rig, the movement looked so smooth and professionally done.

    Jeremiah, this does not look like a remote-controlled fan, how did you get the rig started? I mean, did you climb inside the cylinder space formed by the blades and the camera bracket on the stick while the fan was already turning? That must’ve taken some guts! :)

    Does anyone know if GoPro3 (or another video camera for that matter) can be hacked for shooting faster than 240FPS? By replacing a crystal oscillator inside or the firmware perhaps?

    • jeremiahjw
      July 2, 2013 - 4:01 PM | Permalink

      I had to start it up and run inside, it was spinning slow enough for me to do so without getting hit. I don’t think you can hack the GoPro to make it record any faster.

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  • steve
    July 2, 2013 - 5:42 PM | Permalink

    This is really excellent, im defenitly going to be doing this. btw you can get fujifilm HS-series camera for about the same cost as a GO PRO, and you can get up to 1000 FPS with the fujifilm camera, you would just have to mount it with a tripod mount and an L bracket. really good job, you really gave me something to shoot for today!!

    • massta
      July 9, 2013 - 2:22 PM | Permalink

      That camera is old. And what resolution do you get at 1000fps? small I believe and not worth it. Cameras are getting better though. I suspect an HD 1000fps camera coming soon, maybe a couple of years.

  • July 2, 2013 - 6:26 PM | Permalink

    Excellent!

  • Pingback: DIY “Bullet Time” Rig with GoPro and a Ceiling Fan | FilmmakerIQ.com

  • dan
    July 2, 2013 - 9:38 PM | Permalink

    great job! now you just need to learn how to edit. :P

    • jeremiahjw
      July 2, 2013 - 9:43 PM | Permalink

      Hahahaha! I was going to do a super complex edit project set to upbeat music, but I went with something simpler.

  • July 2, 2013 - 10:28 PM | Permalink

    Good job man, can you tell me what are the settings that I should look for to find a camera to do the same kind of effect of the go pro that you are using?

    The Go Pro is too expensive down here in South America.

    Thanks.

  • stanford
    July 3, 2013 - 2:55 AM | Permalink

    What symphony/score did you use?

  • July 3, 2013 - 11:36 AM | Permalink

    incredible result ! i’m impressive :)

  • July 4, 2013 - 4:18 PM | Permalink

    Very impressive footage.
    Check my Phantom footage @ youtube.
    Working on highspeed sequence with moving Phantom around.
    Not taht easy, but I’ll try :-)

    greetZ
    CarloZ

    • jeremiahjw
      July 4, 2013 - 4:27 PM | Permalink

      I’d love to see the video when you get it online!

  • Productions Perle Noire
    July 4, 2013 - 8:04 PM | Permalink

    Is it a Naked Neutral Density Glass Filter on your GoPro?

    • jeremiahjw
      July 4, 2013 - 8:08 PM | Permalink

      It’s an old UV filter I had laying around. I don’t know who made it.

      • schmopinions
        July 5, 2013 - 12:04 AM | Permalink

        is the filter just for protection or does it really make a difference with the light?

        Great video btw, I love both ideas of filming fireworks in slo mo and the camera movement and you have them together even

        • jeremiahjw
          July 5, 2013 - 12:17 AM | Permalink

          It was for protection

  • July 4, 2013 - 10:03 PM | Permalink

    Jeremiahjw – Fantastic job sir! Being a huge fan of the Matrix, this is really awesome. I myself am a video-holic with the gopro and I’m wondering one thing – how did you manage to shoot at 240 FPS WVGA and produce a finished product that allowed for 720P view on YouTube?
    Did you up-convert the footage in post with your editor? I always see “behind the scenes” footage from GoPro talking about their settings and preferences and when I see the YouTube video of said project, they always seem to have a 1080p option with settings they used that didn’t allow for it originally.
    Thanks in advance for any advice!

    • jeremiahjw
      July 4, 2013 - 10:06 PM | Permalink

      I had to scale the footage up to a 720p resolution. :)

      • massta
        July 9, 2013 - 2:23 PM | Permalink

        I believe original was 800×480. Hopefully, next GoPro will be higher res.

  • Javier
    July 4, 2013 - 10:15 PM | Permalink

    Talk about ingenuity…

    America’s Got Talent. Great job Jeremiah!

    I really enjoyed the footage….and music :)

  • Barry
    July 4, 2013 - 11:50 PM | Permalink

    How did u make the lens hood and what’s with it?

    • jeremiahjw
      July 5, 2013 - 12:02 AM | Permalink

      It’s just a UV filter I taped on

  • Joe Nalley
    July 5, 2013 - 8:03 AM | Permalink

    Great job! Very well done!

  • Chris
    July 5, 2013 - 1:13 PM | Permalink

    Genius…

    Would be awesome if you could give a quick explanation of
    how you did the editing.

    i.e. What do you mean by
    “I had to scale the footage up to a 720p resolution”

    What program did you use and how did you slow it while still retaining the quality?

    Awesome job

    Thanks for sharing

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  • July 5, 2013 - 4:43 PM | Permalink

    Fantastic job!!

  • Wil
    July 5, 2013 - 5:21 PM | Permalink

    totally awesome, great idea for the rig. Cool video, love the roman candles… my favorite!

  • Mike
    July 5, 2013 - 8:40 PM | Permalink

    Nicely done! Very clever.

  • July 5, 2013 - 9:26 PM | Permalink

    raaaad!

  • promleth
    July 5, 2013 - 10:09 PM | Permalink

    This video and the tutorial reminds me just what the best of the web looks like. Thank you so much for showing what is possible on the cheap and with DIY.

  • jenny
    July 6, 2013 - 3:47 AM | Permalink

    Were you afraid that the GoPro would get hit by one of the fireworks and damage it? How did you avoid this from happening?

  • Dave
    July 6, 2013 - 3:25 PM | Permalink

    Genius! I love the simplicity

  • Zulkeef
    July 6, 2013 - 9:14 PM | Permalink

    Very clever and thanks for sharing your trick. You look ambitious and wish you best of luck in your future creativity… awesome!

  • July 7, 2013 - 8:39 PM | Permalink

    I have done several time sequences and “flattened” them in photoshop but only to make still images. I really appreciate what you’ve shown can be done with some inexpensive parts and a creative mind. Well done. – Mitch

  • Phil
    July 8, 2013 - 6:16 AM | Permalink

    Very cool. Very cool indeed.

    Its stuff like this that makes photography fun. Outstanding work and great application of old fashioned ingenuity to come up with a new twist on something like this.

    Thanks for sharing this and hats off to you for this very creative, yet simple solution yielding such a cool result.

    Phil

  • NetVicious
    July 10, 2013 - 6:52 AM | Permalink

    Good idea, but do you thought you could cause a fire doing it ?

    • jeremiahjw
      July 10, 2013 - 12:32 PM | Permalink

      No, I took took some precautions and the ground was still damp from rain.

  • Lawrence Ribeiro
    July 10, 2013 - 4:41 PM | Permalink

    Nice job Jeremiah! That’s truly ingenious. Keep it up!
    Lawrence

  • July 12, 2013 - 10:49 AM | Permalink

    Thank you so much, this idea was great! Here is my result:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTZ_1AL5zYs

    Hope you like it =)

    • jeremiahjw
      July 12, 2013 - 1:02 PM | Permalink

      I love it! I had thought of doing water balloons, but didn’t have the chance to try them. You did a better job at it than I would have.

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  • July 26, 2013 - 8:11 AM | Permalink

    A fan motor is a nice idea! I am thinking about to realise such a ring by a litle train powered with rc motors, but i never build it.

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