In 1998, when the Wachowskis were filming their famous bullet-time scene in The Matrix, they rung their studio with hundreds of still cameras. The cameras fired off in sequence, circling a flailing Keanu Reeves, after which every still image was painstakingly interpolated to create a fluid effect.
The shot they achieved was unforgettable and it made a permanent impact on cinema. But the complexity and cost of their technique meant that other filmmakers interested in experimenting with bullet-time shots would need big-budget backing before they could even begin.
Fast-forward to 2017, when anybody, anywhere, can achieve a similar shot with a single Insta360 ONE camera and a simple accessory.
After attaching the Insta360 ONE to either a selfie stick or the string attachment that’s included with the camera, users can create a bullet-time shot by rotating the ONE around themselves while filming at 120 frames per second. The accessory they use will be automatically erased from the shot, giving the impression that the camera is flying around them.
Using a proprietary interpolation algorithm, the resulting footage can be boosted to 240 frames per second, making for an even slower and more dramatic effect.
How It Works
For the user, creating a bullet-time shot with the ONE is simple, but from a technical standpoint, it’s anything but.
A number of advanced technologies come together to achieve the effect. Firstly, the ONE’s built-in six-axis stabilization keeps the footage smooth, even as centrifugal forces cause unpredictable vibrations during the camera’s orbiting path of movement. This avoids the need for any additional stabilizing equipment.
Once a bullet-time shot has been recorded, the ONE’s companion app uses an advanced stitching algorithm to create a final shot that’s composed of images captured by both of the ONE’s dual fish-eye lenses — blending them into one seamless shot that stays trained on the center of motion.
This stitching is also the key to how the ONE erases the selfie stick or string attachment from the shot. When two images are stitched together, there’s a small sliver of data exactly at the point where they meet that is often lost. The ONE uses this phenomenon to its advantage, positioning the stitch exactly on top of the swinging accessory, so that it’s effortlessly concealed.
Finally, an automatic interpolation algorithm allows users to double the apparent frame rate of their footage from 120 FPS to 240 FPS, achieving super slow-mo shots that give an epic edge to just about anything.