NASA Engineers Upgrade Pseudo Bullet Time Camera Rig with 7,200 FPS Phantom

Rest easy, future astronauts. If occasional filmmaker and full-time tinkerer Mark Rober and his pals are any indication, NASA engineers can MacGyver their way into or out of any situation.

Rober, you may recall, is the former NASA tech guy (now an entrepreneur) who built an awesome pseudo bullet time rig using little more than a GoPro camera, a ceiling fan and plenty of ingenuity.

Problem is, he felt that the 240 fps performance of a GoPro was holding him back. So Rober talked some pals at Aimed Research into loaning him a slightly more expensive 7,200 fps Phantom camera.

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The goal was to build a similar 1-camera ‘bullet time’ rig using the much faster camera and see what happens.

Of course, the Phantom is too big and heavy (and not to mention expensive) to do the spinning itself — besides, that kind of thing tends to make camera owners nervous — so, instead of attaching it to a ceiling fan, Rober and friends decided to place it inside a stable, transparent enclosure below a spinning armature complete with two mirrors that beam light straight to the camera lens.

The result is some amazing 360-degree bullet-time footage of water balloons, soda bottles and more exploding and sending their liquidy contents into the atmosphere.

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On the off-chance you’re thinking that the rig seems pretty straightforward, Rober told Gizmodo that it had to be redesigned a total of 15 times over the past few months — addressing things like light loss from cheap mirrors and troubleshooting to find a focal length/aperture that actually worked — before they could pull useable footage.

To see the slow-motion pseudo bullet time rig in action, check out the video at the top for yourself. And if you want to continue following Rober’s DIY adventures, head over to his YouTube channel by clicking here.

(via Gizmodo)

  • Mark Dub

    Very cool idea but i’m not sure i’d call that “really awesome footage”. I am guessing the 2 mirrors is really hindering the quality. Looks very blurry and honestly, not very impressive. Which is a shame. It’s a great idea tho and I wish the quality was on par with the fixed camera around 2:00

  • Caca Milis

    Pretty cool idea but am I the only one who was expecting 50+ Phantoms for an awesome video, and ye those mirrors don’t seem to do anything good for the video quality

  • realengineer

    It took a NASA engineer to come up with a…periscope?

  • Christian DeBaun

    Neat project – thumbs up!

  • mr.gncd

    Agreed, looks like the mirrors were too small etc. They needed to use so fast fps on the camera that the resolution suffered or something…

  • unimpressed

    wow. i always wanted to know how to make the footage from a $50,000 camera look like gopro footage

  • maybe-next_time

    Good Idea, but again this guy misses the point. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a cool idea.

    NASA engineer, Phantom Camera but sub-par video. No matter the quality, it is very limiting and also the rig is in the way of the shot for several frames.
    If they had designed a rig where the mirrors spun and the rig was not able to be seen, then it would have been way more awesome.

  • Chris

    This isn’t real bullet time footage. It’s like a high speed circular dolly.

  • terry

    looked good, but I don’t get why he thought shooting ball bearings from a sling shot close to a propane tank is dangerous?

  • Fullstop

    Why does it look so bad?

  • Dover

    Because it was shot using two mirrors. Flat glass distorts. Two pieces of flat glass really wrecks an image.

  • Dover

    They need to figure out a way to spin the camera. The image is too distorted by the mirrors to be considered good. Great idea, poor execution. These clips would look amazing if they were clear.

  • Fullstop

    So then why is this something noteworthy?

  • Chas1234

    Looks like they’re using normal mirrors. To get high-quality you need
    to use front-surface mirrors (like are used in telescopes and
    rear-projection TVs). The advantage is that there is no glass between
    the light and the mirrored surface to degrade the image quality. The
    disadvantage is that they are easily damaged without the glass to
    protect them.