The following is a tutorial on how to build your own cheap, portable and hood-style bullet time camera rig on the cheap and the fly. This rig was designed by the Graffiti Research Lab and director Dan the Man to use in a hip-hop music video for underground rappers Styles P, AZ and the legendary Large Professor (spinning below). Just another chapter in the GRL's continuing mission to make open source the sixth element of hip-hop.

Peep the vid at the resolution of the proletariat (below):

Or see how the higher-res live here.

Before we even get started I'd like to throw out some shout outs to PIPS:lab, Pikapika and Picasso/Man Ray for their inspiration on this project. Humbly, all the GRL did was create a tool that would enable the director Dan Melamid to remake the Matrix with Neo as a rapper from Yonkers, NY surrounded by the best graf writers in the city using a mash-up of several existing light-drawing techniques and their own hand-styles.

This project started for us when Dan called and asked if we wanted to get involved in a project combining light, graffiti, bullet time, Brooklyn, and rappers on a small budget to create a video for Styles P's the Hardest. Dan explained that to rent a bullet time or time slicing rig in NYC, it could cost as much as $100,000 per day. Luckily for him graffiti writers and graffiti engineers work for coffee and snickers bars. So we all worked together to make a system that only costs $5000-$8000 and takes just two days to make.

For photos of the video shoot travel here.
Big thanks to Dan for inviting us in and allowing us to open source the process in this tutorial.

(More thanks, credits, and shout outs in Step 14... )
The GRL is a F.A.T. Lab Production.

Now let's jack into the Ghetto Matrix...

Step 1: Tools & Materials

The Ghetto Matrix can be divided into two main components: 1) the camera rig, and 2) camera control box.

Tools For Camera Rig:

- Jig saw
- Drill
- Crescent wrench

Materials for Camera Rig:

- (24) Digital Cameras w/ remote cable shutter control:
Olympus SP-510 UZ - $299.99 / each or less
This is not the only camera that will work and 24 is not a magic number. This is the camera that worked best for us and 24 is how many cameras we could afford on our budget. If you have more cameras you can make a larger matrix and you can place the cameras closer together. This will result in a more fluid animation covering a larger area. The most important thing you will need to check before purchasing thousands of dollars worth of cameras is that they have a remote cable shutter release. If you want to create the light effect like we did in the video, you will also need a camera that has a has a bulb setting (meaning that when the shutter is pressed it stays open until it is released). This enables you to hold the shutter open to make light drawings.

- 1/2" - 3/4" Plywood:
This will be used to create a wooden platform for the cameras. The amount of wood to complete the arc will depend on the radius of the desired system (see Step 2). Most likely (2) 8' x 4' sheets will suffice. You can find plywood at your local lumber yard and it should cost less than $40 dollars for two lower grade pieces of plywood. It aint gotta be pretty.

- (4) Compact Light Stand:
$ 53.50 / each.
We had these on hand so we used them and they worked well. Any tripod system will work however, so if you are looking to save money there are cheaper alternatives.

- (4) Steel Pipe Flange:
Make sure to get a flange with threading capable of accommodating a short pipe section (mentioned below) and at least four-hole mounting pattern. You can get this at home depot or your local hardware store in the plumbing section for ~ $3 dollars.

- (4) Steel ~2in long and ~1in O.D. Pipe Sections (threaded at atleat one end)
This Pipe section should be able to crew into the pipe flange (above). You will insert the top of the tripod stand into this pipe section to support the platform. You may need to modify the pipe section by drilling a hole into the side of the pipe opposite the thread and tap it. You can use a thumbscrew to act as a set screw on the tripod stand to make a more secure connection. You can get threaded pipe at your local hardware store or home depot for about $2 dollars.

- (24) Bolts - 1" Length, 1/4" diameter, 20 thread-count:
Most 35mm camera bodies accept a 1/4" diameter, 20 thread-count screw, but check this before going to the hardware store. These will be used to attach your camera to the wooden platform. A perhaps better alternative to bolts (which don't allow you to accurately adjust the cameras pan or tilt) would be some heavy duty velcro. This connection is strictly for stabilization purposes so it doesn't need to be anything fancy or industrial. A more flexible, but expensive way to do this is use the swivel on an exiting tripod. This will let you fully (though possibly not accurately) adjust the pan, tilt and yaw of the camera. These bolts are commonly available at your local hardware store and cost about ~$3 - $4 dollars for a box of 100.

Tools for Control Box:

- Soldering iron w/ flux and solder
- wire cutters / strippers
- Phillips head screw driver
- needle nose pliers
- drill with drill bits
- wire ties
- wire anchors
- liquid flux

Most of these tools can be found at your local hardware store or radio shack or have been sourced via online catalog companies.

Materials for Control Box:

I have linked to Radio Shack component because of their omnipresence, but you can beat Radio Shack prices at Digikey, Jameco, etc.
- (3) Spools of Stranded, Insulated, 26-22 AWG Wire - $5.99
- (24) Remote Cable Release (RM-UC1) - $56.99 / each (You will need one of these per camera)
- (1) Project Enclosure (8x6x3") - $6.99
- (25) SPST High-Current Mini Toggle Switch - $2.99 each (single pull single throw will work fine)
- (1) Universal Component PC Board - $3.49
- (4) 6-Position European-Style Terminal Strip - $2.89 / each
This Instructable <strong>won the $15,000 laser cutter!</strong> Read more about it<strong> <a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.instructables.com/forum/Graffiti-artists-replicate-The-Matrix-on-Instructa/">here</a></strong>.<br/>
<p>Really admire your execution</p>
Brilliant work!
DUDE! You look like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air!
Holy crap how much did this cost?!?
How did you do the light drawing 180?
Or you could just do it with 2 cameras, Photoshop and AfterEffects like they did here at the 1:32 mark: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.hadlowpro.com/">http://www.hadlowpro.com/</a>. They do it many more times in this video too. I know for a fact that they did it with only two cameras and some rotoscoping and morphing.<br/>
&nbsp;That video is SICK! did they just go frame by frame in photoshop? that would take forever.....
Safety tip, kids: Keep your fingers out of the path of the moving saw!
Aw, no fun...
This is definitely a great project, amazing results. While some of the costs may be out of reach for some you could still get interesting results if you used less cameras, it is still DIY. I made a few versions using 35mm film cameras photographing a whirling dervish, I hope to have time to post an instructable in july on my camera rig but until then you can see the results here: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzL6fH-P0w8">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KzL6fH-P0w8</a><br/>
GRL is the dopest crew I have seen rolling other yet... my homeboy rolls with them and for whatever reason they need a laser cuter....... so I voted and you should too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
TYPE IN CAPS..........not good
Again congrats guys...
very nice work
I agree with a lot of you. This is not DYI. It actually looks professional, is too costly and is the same way done in the matrix. Nothing new, but i like the light effects around the guy.
Absolutely this is DIY. That's what you do when you don't want to drop $100,000 to do it professionally... you "do it yourself"
I'm confused ;) When did "looking Professional" and cost take a project out of the definition and realm if DIY? Respectfully all the comments in this vein sound no different than the sour grapes overheard at any event, when someone is judged to be a winner
wow!! Stop Motion? matrix :-))<br/>after effect! <br/>Adobe family lesson and stop motion =&gt;www.newzatcekim.tr.cx<br/><hr/>turkey in ege<br/>&#305;m sorry not spaek english &#305;m speak turkish<br/><hr/>T&#305;pk&#305; matrix filminde oldu&#287;u gibi.(stop maotion)<br/>Bu yan&#305;nda mat&ouml;r kalm&#305;&#351;...<br/>Bizim stop motion &ccedil;al&#305;&#351;mam&#305;z&#305; g&ouml;rmek isteyenler <br/>www.newzatcekim.tr.cx adresine bakabilir.<br/>(adobe ailesi t&uuml;m programlar&#305; i&ccedil;in ders verilir.)<br/>
You could do bullet time if you used cameras that have the multi-shot option where they take multiple photos over a short period of time.
Um...24 $300 cameras? That's a bit out of my league. And probably many others' leagues as well. That's like, what, $7300? Plus $150 for the light stands, and maybe $500 for all the other pieces and tools? You could buy a car for that much! Not saying it's a bad 'ible, but...whew! Pricey!
im thinking of a different way of doing the same thing, but with one camera...
You could just record a video and have the camera roll on a track as suggested below or you could use a pulley system.
You could but the camera would have to move really fast to create a bullet time effect. Also the frame rate would have to be high.
Well, it'd still probably top off less than this.
That's true.
You could always try green/ blue screen
yeah, but i stuck with just taking pictures, the instructable will be up in a little while
Can't wait for the 'ible.<br/><em>I love italics in this font. I'm getting addicted! Help! 1234567890qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmQWERTYUIOPASDFGHJKLZXCVBNM</em><br/>
haha, i'll try to get it up after school tommrow
*June 2nd rolls around*
You know, this wasn't really bullet time. In bullet time, each camera fires within a fraction of a second of each other, so that the actor doesn't even have to slow down. That's how they do it in the Matrix. It has an easter egg in the DVD version that explains this when you select an image of the red pill somewhere in the menus.
wooo! now go to the place of a sun banks ;-)
mmm tasty
anyone got a spare small fortune so i can make one of these. my spare film crew needed something to do
The only thing ghetto about this is the film they shot. The way the built the system is the same as anybody with money would build this system. Same as the HP commercial they have been showing.
Anybody know of any interpolation software? ( Just to fill in the in between frames/pictures?) Thanks
Can´t believe this won the 15k laser cutter! I know I havn´t posted any instructables myself and therefore it might be conceived as arrogant of me to criticise this. But I am a fan of this site and I do think that its a site for and made by regular people. And in the spirit of ingenuity, outside-the-box-thinking and DIY it is my firm believe that giving the prize to this "instructable" is a slap in the face to the sites regular contributors. I mean, the bullet-time rig isn´t really different to the ones used by (more) proffesional filmmakers - basically its a copy of the one used in the Matrix-series.....only difference being cheaper cameras, no blue (i.e. green) screen and less postproduction - but the setup of the cameras is nothing more than what anybody could learn from seeing the "making of" part of the Matrix dvds. And furthermore the cost of the materials used makes this instructable useless for most (if not all) of the sites regular users - really, how many guys and girls who spends their time building stuff out of garbage and old pc-equipment has a budget pushing 10k for building a bullet-time rig? The point being that this instructable isn´t really that great - most people in here could have and probably would have built this if they had the budget. And I would argue that a lot of the cheaper projects in here would be far more obvious candidates for the first prize - certainly in terms of ingenuity and DIY-ness.... If a bullet-time rig was to be the winner, the prize should have gone to the guys from The Matrix :-) Best regards Kim
I agree
wowa! this is intense
Do they have to keep saying fuck and mother fucker? And, not to whine too much, but the beauty of the bullet time effect is that in the Matrix, they go from movement, to stoppage, to movement. I watched the whole video and didn't see one instance of movement/stoppage/movement.
just throw a video recorder at the end of the line of cameras
I somewhat agree, they did actually a chieve a very nice low budget bullet time RIG, but I am a little disappointed that it wasn't used to full advantage. Since I haven't done an instructable yet, I assume I'll get some attitude for making a negative comment... This is not to knock Grafitti Research Lab at all. I'm a big fan of their inventive projects and daring and all, but with that rig, I would just want to make some footage that really rocked our collective world. The effect as GRL used it in this film (the bullet time shots) I believe I could do a similar thing with one video camera and a handful of still images, and Adobe's sick new Creative Suite... and leave some money in the kitty for the wrap party's supplies. In fact, I guess I am just gonna have to see what I can do to put up an instructable about it,. All my comments notwithstanding, I think this was an excellent project, maybe not Grand Prize material, but really up there in the winning zone.
i agree and posted to the likes. i like what they did but can we say overkill.
i think it woulda been cheaper to just make a track and a high speed camera and just have to roll start to finish like how it was actually done. seems like a lot of extra stuff for how to do bullet time. its a great concept probably the easiest for the basic user to make, to do this effect and the most expensive. and i agree with russ nelson. thats not the matrix effect at all. i think this instructable is 100 percent over kill. ive seen a group called digital visions do this effect first hand a few times with a much simpler rig for the 420 outlaws. and i thought this guide would be along the same lines as there rig. and as i saw it my first and only remaining thought is. why would you do it with so many cameras. it worked but the question is not if it would work. its with that many cameras dang how couldnt you get that effect to work.
I've seen people made this 4 times... It was presented at a mall once. its pretty cool when they show the results. they charge 2 bucks though...
Wow.... you guys have done outdone urselves again! I friggin love it!
wow this sure is one of the best and most intense instructables ive ever seen

About This Instructable



Bio: Agent 005 of the Graffiti Research Lab
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