How to Create a Matrix-style “Bullet Time” Effect Using a Cheap Ceiling Fan


Want to shoot insanely cool Matrix-style “bullet time” footage at home? You can do so with a single rig built out of relatively cheap components.

NASA spaceship engineer Mark Rober came up with a brilliant way to shoot eye-popping imagery using just a GoPro camera and a cheap ceiling fan.

Those are the main components. To build Rober’s rig you’ll also need a circular platform, a backdrop, and a couple of flashlights. Here’s what Rober’s rig looks like:


Basically, the ceiling fan-powered rig spins an object in the center at high speeds, but the plain backdrop spins along as well. This makes it appear that the background and subject are stationary while the camera is rotating around the subject!

Ordinary bullet time is done using tens of DSLRs and expensive rigs, but Rober managed to build his rig for roughly $30 (the price of his cheap fan).

Here’s a video in which Rober introduces his rig and shows off some of the amazing sample footage he was able to capture using it:

All the sample clips in the video were captured using a GoPro Hero3 shooting at 240 frames per second. Rober didn’t use any slow-mo faking software (e.g. Twixtor) for the effect, but he did use After Effects to smooth out some of the motion at certain parts.

(via Mark Rober via Gizmodo)

Thanks for sending in the tip, Eric!

P.S. We shared a similar concept back in March that involved capturing “bullet time” footage using a GoPro mounted on a rotating arm, but the results of that project were nowhere as awesome as this one.

  • Christian Jung

    It doesn’t look matrix-like. It looks like capturing a spinning object most of the time. Which isn’t quite magical.

  • MD

    My thought exactly. While interesting, it’s pretty easy to figure out what you’re actually seeing.

    Not to mention, doing this on a larger scale (actors/sets) would probably start to approach, or even surpass the cost of doing it “right”.

  • Ed Rhodes

    So he built a lazy susan?

  • Håvard Fandrem

    If he had a greenscreen behind the objects with tracking points, it could be fairly easy to add a background so it looks like the camera is moving.

    As of now, it just seems like the object itself is spinning.

  • Wilko

    you could build your own little studio by placing a green or white papercircle around it.

    Then you could fix the lights in one position and it would not longer look like its just “spinning” Cool idea indeed!

  • KewlDewd

    The effect he’s referring to is where the bullets are frozen in time, and camera spins around them, right? This looks nothing like that. I could see a technique like this producing something cool, but to be brutally honest, his footage looks terrible. Lighting is bad, white balance all over the place, splash all over his background. Maybe I’m not getting it.

  • smwtyhd

    What miserable posters! for $30 thats a pretty good effect, & you could have a lot of fun experimenting & improving, unlike buying 30 cameras to start with.

    SO, please do tell, what effect has the miserable Christian or “MD” developed then……..

  • Guillermo

    The problem with this method is motion blur, which happens because the camera is moving relative to the subject… with lots of light, you can increase the shutter speed enough to minimize the blur, but I saw it in the example video. The bullet time in the Matrix had each video frame captured by a different camera so there was no motion blur.

  • Tyler Magee

    Its still cool for price. Could you imagine a 7D at 60fps brought in to Twixtor… Now that would be something

  • dslr video studio

    A nice effect but a single go pro could really freeze the action at that speed.

  • xb-ox

    Very cool creativity, love it!

  • Tommyj

    ok next ?

  • Hypoxide

    Pretty cool proof of concept. A more expensive version that rotates much faster and has an actuator on the camera arm to move it along a vertical path could have some real industry applications.

  • BDWT

    maybe he should’ve gone to IKEA first. could’ve saved some money.

  • juan

    I think it looks like a fun and interesting experiment, no need to go harsh on the guy for sharing it. The only ‘error’ he commited was presuming that the lights and the background should be spinning in sync with the camera when the opposite is true. i f he didn’t want to show of his garage he could have made a cardboard ‘studio’ slghtly wider than the fan and shone the lights from outside and above of the walls

  • Niktu

    If you want to experiment with higher framerates on cheap, Playstation Eye might be interesting (320×240@187 fps or 640×480@75 fps), but you will have sacrifice some resolution to do so.

  • MD

    Don’t be a twit. Not liking something does not make one a miserable poster or a spoilsport or anything else that you’d like us to be because we don’t agree with your opinion.

    I appreciate that you have no reason to take any anonymous internet poster seriously, but I’m more than confident enough in what I’ve achieved to decline to justify myself to someone clearly entering the fray with bias.

    We’re allowed not to be impressed. Tinkering for the sake of tinkering without holding your results to a high standard is unlikely to produce any appreciable benefit, as this experiment thus far proves. The engineer is clearly welcome to continue his work with this method until he comes up with something truly impressive, but this is not yet it.

    Sorry your worldview isn’t wide enough to allow dissenting opinions.

  • Bill

    No, a ceiling fan. With a lazy Susan, all the objects on the platform would be spinning together, no motion effect. The ceiling fan approach, the center is stationary and the the blades rotate around the center giving you the wrap around motion effect.
    Let’s be clear now.

  • Bill

    I think most people are afraid on conceptual ideas, unless they are presented by the big guys in the industry.

    For $30, I mean what are you really losing here, maybe an afternoon playing around with it. If it works for you great, if not you got yourself a spare $30 ceiling fan.

  • 4dmaze

    Interesting for as inexpensive as it was to set up. And the plot was better than the third Matrix movie.

  • OTTObox

    It’s okay not to be impressed but when someone is not impressed with you, watch out! Hypocrite.

  • MD

    This is nonsensical. My achievements have never been up for debate, nor have Christian’s. Nobody is impressed with us because we haven’t volunteered anything by which they should be impressed. This is a discussion, not a gallery. That’s how things work in the grown-up world.

    Nobody said you weren’t allowed to like it, only that we don’t. Your desire to de-legitimize our differing opinions is embarrassing and childish.

  • DarkArtDesign

    Cool Idea not Impressed with results, but that’s me and a few others by sound.

  • OTTObox

    “Don’t be a twit” is embarrassing and childish. Then attacking someone’s worldview as though you truly know is nonsensical

    My original assessment stands: hypocrite.