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Bullet Time
On your computer at home

By Jay C Miller


This Tutorial is based on The Matrix key effect "Bullet Time." By using Keyframes it is relatively easy to set up the shot, however if you want to use the effect without Keyframes (e.g. Particles), you would have to do it traditionally. For this project, the idea is to render three separate shots, one for the effect and two others for the start and end animation. By deleting the key frames, you can pause time and animate a camera along a motion path.

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3DS File
Max 2.5 File

Max 4File

Final Rendering .avi

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This intro is if you don't know how bullet time works, I've used max to illustrate how bullet time is done for real in the image opposite. Several still cameras are setup around a subject, maybe a video camera at either end. All of the cameras take a shot at once (or in sequence over a very short time) tacking a shot at the same time means that the subject can be frozen in time. Every shot is then combined in sequence frame by frame from start to end, because each camera is on a slightly different angle to the other, the effect is that while time is at a stand still the camera pans around the subject.

For this tutorial deleting key frames and setting up a new file is an easier way than setting up several cameras (The Matrix guys would have over 50) pausing time in 3d is much easier, so the path constraint is a good workaround.



First of all you can download this example file. It is a Dynamic simulation that creates a nice animation to use for this effect, otherwise any keyframed animation will do. Now create an arc by going to Create panel>Shapes>Arc. Go to the top view and start it there. To give the camera interesting motion put a bend modifier on the spline by going to Modify panel>Bend. You'll need to move the gizmo, Sub-Object>Gizmo: so that the starting points are flat and it's only the back of the arc that has the bend. Nice, now create a new camera Create>Camera>Target and assign a path controller to the camera Motion panel>Position >Assign controller>Path>OK. (max4 add path)Pick the arc that you just created. At this point if you go to frame 60, change the perspective view to the camera and select the camera target. Frame 60 is where the effect will be so move the target around till you get a good shot.

The scene needs two more cameras Create>Camera>Free x2, these two now will be aligned to the first camera at the start and the end of the animation. Go to frame 0 and select camera02, then Tools>Align and select the first camera. On the pop up screen under Align Position, check all the XYZ boxes and under Align Orientation check all the XYZ Axis. This will get your real time camera inline with the effect camera for a smooth transition. Now do the same with the other camera but on the last frame.

With the scene set up, chose a good spot for the effect, one that will look good in all of the shots when the animation has paused. If you're using the example go to frame 60, then Track View>Open Track View, expand the tracks out and delete all of the key frames, except that of the first camera. You now have time at a stand still to use for the effect shot, save your work now as a separate file so you don't lose the original keyframes. By moving the slider to frame 60 BEFORE you delete the frames means that the animation will be paused at frame 60.


It will be important to remember the effect frame for when you put the three shots together. Camera02 - Target Camera - Camera03.

To finish off the shot, render the three cameras, the first (effect camera) for as long as it takes to finish, the second up to the frame you deleted (i.e. frame 60) and the third from said frame to the end. By combining the three shots in any editing program, you get the final result.

Camera02 - Target Camera - Camera03.

Camera02 frame 0 to 60 (File01)

Target Camera, 0-150 frame 60 deleted keyframes (File02)

Camera03 frame 60 to 150 (File01)

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The final scene.