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Time-slicing

Published : 15th September 2003


Does anybody know anything about time-slicing, used in the matrix, when camera moves around actor and time stands still.

I'm keen to use effect in a short film, wondering if anybody could give me advice.

Is it possible to build your own camera system.

Thank you

Llewellyn Thomas



Llewellyn Thomas wrote :

>Is it possible to build your own camera system.

As comedian Chris Rock says "You can drive your car with your feet - not that's a good idea - but you can."

Time Slicing takes numerous still or motion picture cameras, a special rig and precise computer control to achieve the effect = mucho $dinero$

Wonder if megapixel digital cameras are being used yet - might save some steps and help with registration.

Clark Bierbaum
Senior Colorist
The Film Foundry
Charlotte, NC



Hi,

>Time Slicing takes numerous still or motion picture cameras, a special >rig and precise computer control

The one used on "The Matrix" did, sure. On the other hand, you could just as easily stick a bunch of cameras along a curved rail and so long as they were all focussed on a single point, or a controlled array of points, you'd be fine.

The effect is heavily reliant on postproduction, but that's something that any desktop computer could handle these days. I wouldn't have any particular hesitation about trying to build a simple setup - so long as someone was to provide a hundred cameras!

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London



>Time Slicing takes numerous still or motion picture cameras, a special >rig and precise computer control

I've always thought you could do very nicely - and in one quick take, too - using a Photosonics high-speed camera locked down on a circular rail system. Use a cluster of F- or G- sized model rocket booster engines sync-started with nichrome wire to propel the camera around the track in well under a second. Use some big, soft and non-flammable buffering to catch the camera on the far side.

For those allergic to high-specific-impulse solid fuel motors, try Googling "bullet time" or "Flo Mo".

Adam "non-destructive testing? That's no fun" Wilt / Menlo Park CA USA



>using a Photosonics high-speed camera locked down on a circular rail

Hey, good idea...now do it and show us the results LOL

John Babl



>Does anybody know anything about time splicing

Try :

http://www.timeslicefilms.com

A nice company in the UK.

Jon Mitchell
Elstree, UK based 1st AC / Focus Puller



Jon Mitchell wrote :

>Try: http://www.timeslicefilms.com

This is a great website. I encourage anybody who is interested in time splicing to take a look.

I only wish I had know about this one when I was writing the chapter on special effects. I certainly would have mentioned Tim MacMillian if I had known he was the inventor of the method. He certainly deserves recognition for what he has done.

Blain Brown
DP
LA



>This is a great website.

Well it's certainly interesting to note the similarities (in concept) between Tim McMillan's early camera (the one with pinholes) and the Timetrack camera invented by Dayton Taylor which I worked with 4-5 yrs ago (see the Discover Card ad in the samples).

Although Tim's Josephine rig looks like the first really practical application.

See this web site, and note the intellectual property/patent stuff :

http://www.virtualcamera.com/

Rory Moles

1st AC London



Rory Moles wrote :

>Timetrack camera invented by Dayton Taylor which I worked with 4-5yrs >ago

I thought there might be others who had similar developments and/or were claimants to the invention/patent; that sort of thing always seems to happen with new ideas like this.

Thanks for the info...I'll note all this in the second edition.

Blain
DP
LA



I had the pleasure of seeing Tim Macmillans experimental student films which he made in the early 80s using his 'primitive' pinhole arrays. They are quite beautiful loops and quite definitely the first instance of what is now known as time splicing.

Part of the charm and aesthetic appeal of his early work is the scratchy 'analogue' quality that derives from the frame to frame fluctuations in exposure, registration and focus.

IMHO recent practise of others of digital frame interpolation and general 'cleaning up' of the image seems to diminish the magic of the effect and make the whole shot look synthetic.

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.



Hi,

I'm sure I saw one of those circular pinhole arrays on Tomorrow's World in about 1989. Judith Hann threw a handful of confetti through it. Spectacular.

Phil Rhodes
Video camera/edit
London



Phil Rhodes wrote :

>I'm sure I saw one of those circular pinhole arrays on Tomorrow's World >in about 1989.

It was 1993!

I always remembered it as earlier which makes me feel a bit long in the tooth (it was still ten years ago mind). They ran the credits over a loop of a 'shot' where a leaping dog was frozen in mid air. It received a record number of complaints to the BBC switchboard from distraught animal lovers who where all under the impression that to endlessly rotate a camera around a static dog it had to be a corpse and hence the program makers had somehow slaughtered it in the process.

What can I say. I live in a country where people beat up paediatricians and burn down muslin factories!

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London



Here is a resend of and old post of mine with some additions.

I have taken to calling it a "Still Array" since it describes the setup as opposed to someone's fanciful marketing term.

I have done this (with Reel Efx) and get a lot of calls inquiring about the doing the technique. Once Producers find out how much a completed shot is they also want to know the cheap options.

I had a great experience with Reel Efx :

http://www.reelefx.com/

Our shot was a multiple-element-Motion-Control-green-screen-lighting-cue-extravaganza. Very tricky and they performed well.

Nine out of ten inquiries about this process pass on the cost. Also, I would seriously consider hiring a VFX Supervisor to oversee the whole concept from beginning to end. This is the kind of sequence that has things falling through the cracks.

I can't speak to their rigs but here are some other suppliers of still arrays :

http://www.hitpaws.com/tmpg_fr.html
http://www.virtualcamera.com/
http://www.bigfreeze.com/
http://www.timeslicefilms.com/

Cheers,

Eric Swenson

P.S. TUDA (The Usual Disclaimers Apply)



Blain Brown wrote :

>I only wish I had know about this one when I was writing the chapter on >special effects. I certainly would have mentioned Tim MacMillian if I had >known he was the inventor of the method.

Enough already!

Muybridge did this in 1878-79!

Check any reference on photography the famous multiple camera rig that was built to settle a bet on whether all 4 legs of a horse leave the ground during full gallop. These shots were "projected" in a Zoetrope later the Zoopraxiscope that were both precursors to Edison's work!

For a quick reference :

http://www.temple.edu/photo/photographers/muybridge/timeline.html

A snip :

Muybridge used a set-up that included 36 lenses with 12 to 24 cameras, placed at 30, 60, and 90 degree angles to his subjects. The two cameras placed at 30 and 60 degrees were able to hold up to 12 lenses each. A session could potentially yield as many as 36 dry-plate negatives. Some of Muybridge's techniques are still used in photographing special effects for film. By October 1885, he had made 20,000 photographs...

Another view :

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Academy/9657/Muybridge.html

I don't know Tim or if his claims are out of ignorance, conceit or differentiating a subtly technicality, but 100 years is a long time to be upstaged. It reminds me that at one time Louie Schwartzberg of Energy Productions claimed to have invented time-lapse (in the 1970's).

Cheers,

Eric Swenson
VizFxDp On-Set Super



Eric Swenson wrote :

>Muybridge did this in 1878-79!

Not really. I am a great fan of Muybridge, but the essential difference is that his final product was a series of still photographs.

His accomplishment was great, but he did not "invent" motion pictures or the time-slicing effect; his brilliant innovation of related but different. If he had invented time-slicing I certainly think we would have seen it a long time before the Gap commercials or the Matrix.

Blain
DP
LA



>Check any reference on photography the famous multiple camera rig >that was built to settle a bet on whether all 4 legs of a horse leave the ground during full gallop.

The horse was only the beginning. Muybridge's next experiment saw him placing a hundred or so cameras around a politician to see if he could actually be detected in the middle of a lie. Obsessed by magic, he developed a circular time slice setup designed to capture and reveal the secrets behind basic magic tricks. (He was too shy to simply ask.) He once tried to capture the moment when a lawyer felt pity, but eventually gave it up as hopeless.

His crowning achievement, and the one that sets him way ahead of the pack, was an experimental film involving kids wearing Levis Jeans back in the early 1880's, where he shot time slice footage of a square dance and incorporated it into standard moving footage. (Unaware that the film had great commercial value, he was simply using the system to chaperone a collection of rowdy teenagers.) This was the basis for the recent series of Gap commercials, which were really just ripping off a style that had been developed a hundred years before.

Muybridge reportedly got his ideas from the ancient Babylonians, who had developed a technique wherein a hundred scribes with clay tablets were placed in a circle around a wrestling ring to document the moment of decisive victory. That was truly the miracle of its day, as the scribes had to work extremely fast : cuneiform shorthand was still way in the future. Translations of ancient texts refer to the process as "tablet time."

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



Eric Swenson wrote :

>I don't know Tim or if his claims are out of ignorance, conceit or >differentiating a subtly technicality

I should clarify here. The assertion that Tim MacMillan invented this effect was mine, not his. My impression of Tim MacMillan when I met him was that he was incredibly unassuming. He sees himself foremost as a visual artist and is incredibly philosophical about the fact that his techniques and cameras have been 'ripped off' by many others. I can think of several individuals who have tried to claim absolute complete credit for devising time slicing - he is not one of them. He simply pre-dates all the other (living) contenders.

> Muybridge did this in 1878-79!

I'm not going to get into a spitting contest about this but I'd like to see you try and argue that to John Gaeta or Joel Silver.

Tom Townend,
Cinematographer/London.



>I'm not going to get into a spitting contest about this but I'd like to see >you try and argue that to John Gaeta or Joel Silver

With all due respect to John Gaeta, I don't know what he is saying now, but back when the Bullet Time rig was being developed (I was a consulting engineer on the project myself and subsequently supervised a shoot for an IMAX show using the rig) he was not claiming to have originated the "temps mort" methodology by a long shot. There were already extant rigs.

The Bullet Time rig embodied many advancements to the "temps mort" methodology, including a sophisticated yet operationally simple way of aiming cameras such that they could follow a moving target (time slice pan and tilt to go along with the dolly move) as well as sequential triggering methodologies, previous methodologies and layout methodologies that allowed us to set camera paths up on complex splines. I have not seen another rig that allows as much flexibility in camera layout as John's design does, though I have not kept up with every design out there. In the disclaimer department, I have not worked directly with John since then, though we worked together in the early.

Mark Weingartner
LA based



Blain Brown wrote :

>Not really. I am a great fan of Muybridge, but the essential difference is >that his final product was a series of still photographs.

Yes really.

That is the definition of these still array set ups. Different pieces of film being exposed at the same (or near the same) time in discreet geographic locations. The assemblage of these still photographs to create the illusion of movement is all you need to make a "motion picture". Here is where it gets shaky because the motion picture projector as we know it had not yet been invented.

There were the Praxinoscope, the Phenakistoscope, and my favourite, the Zoopraxiscope. These were all used to view or project Muybrige's stills to create the illusion of movement.

Consider this :

A little later Muybridge designed a portable camera, eighteen inches square and four feet long. It was fitted with thirteen matched lenses, one of which served as a finder. Three plates 12 inches long and 3 inches wide were put into specially designed holders, which were divided into twelve compartments. The "electro-expositor" and the multiple plate holder simplified the technique; it was no longer necessary to stretch two dozen threads across the track or to lead two dozen plate holders for each "take."

http://www.photo-seminars.com/Fame/muybridge.htm

How does the above description differ from the #5. Josephine device pictured on Tim's sight here? :

http://www.timeslicefilms.com/cameras_pc.shtml

or Dayton's time track rig pictured here?

http://www.virtualcamera.com/

>His accomplishment was great, but he did not "invent" motion pictures >or the time slicing effect.

I did not say he "invented" motion pictures but that his works were precursors to cameras and film as we know it from Edison and team.

Read :

"Another attraction at the [1893] World's Fair was Edison's peephole moving-picture machine, the kinetoscope. It was a direct descendant of the zoopraxiscope and Edison, in a letter dated 1925 to the Society of moving picture Engineers, wrote that the germ of his idea for moving' pictures "came from a little toy called the zoetrope and the work of Muybridge, Marey, and others."

http://www.photo-seminars.com/Fame/muybridge.htm

>his brilliant innovation of related but different. If he had invented time->slicing I certainly think we would have seen it a long time before the >Gap commercials or the Matrix.

But we have. It's been a long time though. Muybridge's works were all either a curiosity, or used in scientific studies of human and animal motion.

The tool was just used differently. This resurrection is not the first time a solely scientific technique has been used to create stunning images. Slitscans, Million FPS cameras, Kodaliths have all been used -to name a few.

"An artist with an unfamiliar wonted device will often delight."

When the cumbersome process of setting up dozens of individual cameras was synthesized down to one image taking device, the old process was abandoned. The movie camera hit all the marks. Cheaper, faster, lighter better.

Then, after 100 years of looking at movies made from a single lens device that exposed consecutive film frames, someone (I will not venture who), resurrected the very expensive concept of multiple cameras in an array.

The excitement came from the WAY the cameras were placed combined with new color, clarity and not-seen-in-100-years way of capturing a moving image from multiple angles simultaneously. That gave us a rebirth of an early technique.

Cheers,

Eric Swenson
VizFxDp On-Set Super



Even a brief browsing of Muybridge's The Human Figure in Motion would seem to support Eric Swenson's position.

Brian Heller
IA 600 DP



>His accomplishment was great, but he did not "invent" motion pictures >or the time-slicing effect

It's very rare that anyone can be claimed to be the sole inventor of something. To do so would be to deny entirely the way in which human knowledge is advanced - each step built upon the last. Some steps are greater than others of course, and deserve recognition as highlights : but usually the most conspicuous advances are the little ones which combine a few ideas in an innovative application.

Hence time-slice/bullet time/frozen moment systems all use the Muybridge multi-camera approach, and combine it with creative placing of the cameras to simulate an instantaneous tracking shot - an aspect not used by Muybridge as that wasn't his objective at the time. Some techniques now use computer pre-visualisation techniques to design the camera layout, laser alignment to implement it, micro-timing to re-introduce the time dimension, and of course digital repositioning to align each frame. None of that reduces the place of Muybridge in progress towards the current techniques.

In other contexts, based on the step-by-step view of advancing technology :

Who "invented" photography?
Who "invented" motion pictures?
Who "invented" sound films?
Who "invented" television?

Please don't answer any of these questions - life is too short and bandwidth too precious.

Dominic Case
Atlab Australia



I'd like to add to the discussion on Muybridge, McMillan and Time-slicing by pointing out that one of Tim McMillan's photo-art pieces using his Time-slice rig; is a shot of a Horse, with all it's hooves off the ground, at the point of it's death (it's just been shot!).

I'd be very surprised if McMillan isn't paying homage to Muybridge in this piece.

It got him nominated for the Citibank Prize a few years back (can't remember if he won or not).

I also worked with McMillan on an ident (involving Rugby players diving into a puddle) a few years ago and found him to be very unassuming. He was sponsored by Kodak, incidentally and I think the first rigs were developed around the time he was at Art College in Bath in the early 80s.

Ian Samels
DP, London



>This is the way "time slice" was done in the beginning....

I do not know who revitalized the still array. The first time I heard of it was at least a decade ago when a production company wanted to shoot a champion tennis players ball in a "dolly" shot at it crossed the net.

They set up a bunch of cameras...

Cheers,

Eric Swenson