Aussie photographers make bullet-time light-painting video

This great example of bullet-time photography comes from two Aussies who put together a rig of 96 digital SLRs, and decided to paint with light.

Lexy Savvides Principal Video Producer
Lexy is an on-air presenter and award-winning producer who covers consumer tech, including the latest smartphones, wearables and emerging trends like assistive robotics. She's won two Gold Telly Awards for her video series Beta Test. Prior to her career at CNET, she was a magazine editor, radio announcer and DJ. Lexy is based in San Francisco.
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Lexy Savvides
2 min read

You may have seen plenty of examples of The Matrix-style bullet-time videos, which can provide a unique photographic view of the passing of time.

Splice Boys is an Australian collective made up of photographers and film-makers Tom Brandon and Richard Kendall. Together, they have created this stunning example of bullet time, but involving light painting and a rig consisting of 96 digital SLRs.

The whole kit has a custom-made rigging and triggering system. In various frames from the film above, you can see just how expansive the set-up really is; along with the 96 cameras, there are also 24 tripods, six PCs, one Mac and around 1 kilometre of cabling. Each exposure is 30 seconds.

According to Splice Boys, the exposure time was just long enough to allow them to illustrate with their light sources, including torches, sparklers, laptop screens and LEDs. "With even longer exposures, more detailed light painting could be achieved. For the strobe-flash light shots, we pulsed them at various intervals, some as little as three flashes, up to 50 flashes in 3 seconds."

Splice Boys first came together in January 2012 to work on a Land Rover campaign with Black and Cameron Productions, where they took the rig around China, shooting everything from stills, film, time lapse and lenticular 3D photography. "We shot in many locations, including Tibet, Beijing, Shangrila in Yunnan Province and Dunhuang on the edge of the Gobi Desert with the rig. We set it up at 5000 metres in blizzards, got borderline hypothermia working though the night at -23 degrees Celsius, [shot in] freezing rain in lakes and rivers, covered the rig with mud and burnt ourselves to a crisp in the desert.

(Credit: Jaemin Kim)

"The equipment is all packed in custom boxing and transported either in a van or on our backs. One of the biggest difficulties is just in the sheer size of the rig, and all the interconnected and delicate parts that make it work. In a studio, this is relatively easy; in the rain or at altitude, not so much. Some shots could take up to 10 hours to set up when working in extreme conditions.

"Our amazing English key grip Darren Bailey (based in Shanghai) is a godsend for us, and working in these environments without a great crew is impossible."

(Credit: Splice Boys)

Where to next for Splice Boys? They want to experiment further with the delay between images to emphasise movement. "So much of what is done with these rigs has been done to death, but no one wants to shake up the system or experiment; that's why we're different, we don't have preconceived or entrenched ideas of what you should, or rather what you shouldn't, do with these rigs. They are so adaptable, especially the way in which we have created our system, that they can be used for just about anything. Yes, we can create real art and not just advertising or blockbuster effects."