October 22, 2015 Adam Dunhoff

October’s Best Independent Video – Fire breathing in bullet time

We think this filming technique is so cool we had to write about it. Mitch Martinez is a talented cinematographer / indie filmmaker from Philadelphia. He got our attention with these two sensational videos titled “Inferno”, and “Light Painting”.

Filmed at the Hill Theatre Studio in New Jersey with a total of 50 s. Mitch explained that absolutely no CGI animation or VFX was used in the making of these videos all the imagery has been created in the camera.

Check out Mitch’s videos and the full interview below!

Time Slice Camera Array (Bullet Time) “Inferno”

  • 120 degree Bullet Time Rig – High-Velocity Shots
  • Fire Performers – Terry Fields and Mike Icon

What is bullet time?

Bullet time, stop time or time freeze is a camera array that ranges anywhere from 24 to 150+ cameras to create an effect of stopped time or extremely slowed time. The systems are not mass produced, each rig is custom. It operates with its own camera control protocols, post-processing, and filming techniques refined through many stages of development.

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Was this a challenge to produce and how big was the crew?
For the camera array system, the crew kind of varied depending on people’s availability.  It was a passion project with no budget for crew so when people were around, they would pop in on a testing session and help out if they could.  We’ve had crews as small as two people and as large as twelve.  In total throughout the whole process, about 22 people were involved in the crew testing, development, and studio filming.

The project itself was loaded with unforeseen challenges.  Every step of the way, it was a lot more complicated than I expected

The project itself was loaded with unforeseen challenges.  Every step of the way, it was a lot more complicated than I expected.  The whole project made me wish I had training with software programming and electrical engineering but after a lot of time and hard work, we finally got everything working with the precision that is needed for film production and I’m very excited to start creating even more ambitious imagery with the system.

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Camera

Why did you use 50 cameras rather than several?

For filming purposes, 48 cameras will yield two seconds of real-time footage from the camera array at 24fps.  If you add a motion camera at both ends of an array, you can integrate motion – starting with footage in motion, doing the camera move from the array, and then ending the action in motion.  24 cameras would only get you one second of footage and that was a concern in regards to how much content would be created from the array – so we have 48 matching cameras in line with motion integration capabilities.

24 cameras would only get you one second of footage and that was a concern in regards to how much content would be created from the array

Can you tell us about the camera array setup have you used it before?

We officially started the project in the summer of 2013.  The software wasn’t ready for testing until the late fall / early winter of that year – and then there were many months of testing and resolving problems.  We did our first official shoot for a green screen music video that winter while the system was still in the beta testing phase with director, Daniel Davison, and the band, Blessthefall.  There were still glitches and timing problems with triggering the cameras at the time – and luckily, that glitchy look worked for the music video. (watch the video here) It was probably the only time that we could get away with that result and with the software developments that we’ve done over time, the only way I could recreate the glitchy effect would be to re-install the beta tested software instead of the current build.  From there, we did further development and our next studio shoot was in March 2014.  There were still issues that needed work – so we continued to refine the system and make it more solid.  Our final studio shoot before the official release of the system was in June 2015 and the system is functioning really well.  It’s such a drastic difference compared to the early testing sessions.

Editing – Post

Who was the editor, and what editing programs did you use?

I did the editing and assembly for the footage.  I use Adobe After Effects for the camera array footage and do full assembly with motion integration in Adobe Premiere.  I’m honestly not an editor but I can get the job done when there isn’t a budget to hire someone else to do editing.  In the future, I’d love to see a pro editor work some real magic with time slice footage.

The focus and goal was to do imagery that really emphasized the potential of the three-dimensionality that results from the camera array

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No CGI was used so what did you do to make it stand out?

The focus and goal was to do imagery that really emphasized the potential of the three-dimensionality that results from the camera array.  All of content we filmed is not necessarily revolutionary – but many of things we shot with the camera I had never seen done in the way we executed it (LED hoop performers, LED staff + poi, fire breathers with motion integration at the quality level we did, etc).  Moving forward, we have a growing list of fun ideas to try to continue pushing our capabilities and imagery.  I am not opposed to CGI or animation in any way being used with the camera array footage – in fact, I’m quite in favor of it – but I didn’t have budget for that and the imagery is so distinct that I thought it was important to make it clear that our specific visuals didn’t have any animation involved so that people didn’t automatically assume otherwise.

All of content we filmed is not necessarily revolutionary – but many of things we shot with the camera I had never seen done in the way we executed it

How did you come up with this concept and will you have more upcoming videos?

There have been many camera array systems before ours (bullet time, time freeze, stop time, time slice or whatever you’d like to call it).  I can’t really take credit for the concept since the camera array thing has been out there for so long; it’s just a rare thing that isn’t accessible to most people in the film industry.  The system allowed to me to create imagery that I wouldn’t be able to do any other way and that seemed like a great way to continue growing as a creative professional.

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My goal really was to create a solid system that was ready for production and to make it available to productions and filmmakers.  I’m looking forward to a lot of the future collaborations to see what great visual ideas other directors and productions would like to try with the camera array.  I strongly encourage any production that’s interested in the camera array system to contact me about details and logistics.  One of my frequent phrases is simply, “Let’s film something!”

I’m looking forward to a lot of the future collaborations to see what great visual ideas other directors and productions would like to try with the camera array

Either way, there will definitely be more videos in the future.  We’re always testing, filming, and creating something new.

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Location:

Why did you film in the studio?

A studio environment helps eliminate variables like available overnight security, power, wind/rain/snow, extreme temperatures, and changing light throughout the day.  For a lot of the early shoots, I couldn’t imagine doing them in a non-studio location.  In the future, we will do shoots in varying real-world locations but I’ll always have a great appreciation for studio filming.

In the future, we will do shoots in varying real-world locations

Was it difficult to film around the fire and smoke?

The biggest issue with the fire shoot was the soot that is created from the fuel that the perfomers use to make the fireballs.  We did the best we could to keep the studio ventilated and learned from our experiences on what can be done to make sure we maximize our precautionary efforts to protect the studio walls, ceiling, and equipment from soot/residue.

The biggest issue with the fire shoot was the soot that is created from the fuel that the perfomers use to make the fireballs

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Actor breathing fire in Mitch’s latest video project series “Time Slice”

What were some of the problems faced, while in production and post?

During our first studio shoot (the 360 degree light painting videohttps://vimeo.com/136276624), we had a lot of technical problems.  The system was very unstable at the time (March 2014) and not nearly as stable as it is now.  We had to do a lot of system resets from glitches in the system and, at that time, each reset would take about 30-35 minutes.  Multiple resets could cost hours of time.  It was a mess and it’s a great pleasure to see how far the system has come since then.  Today, the software is really solid and rarely needs a reset – and even when it does, the reset time is down to about 5 or 6 minutes.

Would you have done anything differently?

That’s a hard question.  Although the whole process took more time, money, and energy than I had planned – everything that was done has ended with this result and the result is very much what we wanted with the system.  Great imagery.  Solid camera precision.  Solid system.

Not only is this video maker a great cinematographer he is great at networking! Mitch recently shared with the internet and video maker community free 4K stock footage shot on RED Epic. Companies such as Disney, Nike, Samsung, Microsoft, HBO are also using his video clips, not just the indie filmmakers. His videos are not only used on commercials they’ve also been used in such movies as “Sin City 2”, “The Last Witch Hunter” and in “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”

Go to his website to read more about Mitch and enjoy the tutorials and free 4K stock footage.

 

 

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