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Create Your Own Stop Motion/Bullet Time Photography Mashups

Canadian photographer Eric Paré reveals how he created his bullet time/stop motion series LightSpin.

by Sam Clements
29 May 2013, 11:08am

This behind the scenes video peeks into the creation process behind Eric Paré’s LightSpin project

Independent photographer Eric Paré recently stamped his 360° mark all over photography with his collaborative 24x360 light-painting experiment. He's now evolved the project into LightSpin, a fascinating concoction of stop motion and bullet time photography using dancers and ambient light.

There’s not a Matrix leather coat or plasticine model to be seen in this particular bullet time/stop motion mash up, but Paré combines these techniques with long(ish) shutter exposures to illuminate his dancers in a unique rhythmic style.

“For this project I had to work frame by frame—asking the dancer to move very slightly between each exposure,” he told me. “The light effect was created with a very powerful flashlight on strobe mode—320 lumen. I’m in the middle of the ring wearing black clothing and I’m creating the effect by hand. You can’t see me because I’m in black and I’m moving so I’m not part of the exposure,” he said.

The LightSpin project

Trimming down a cool 500,000 frames to just 2,000 that made the final cut, Paré stitched together hundreds of images from 24 separate cameras to capture a 360° moving perspective of his subjects.

“I had to move in sync with the dancer to make sure I properly lit them always at the same place for every frame, so I really had to be careful moving at the right time and making myself invisible for the cameras behind me,” he said. “I had the light in my right hand and the PocketWizard in my left hand to trigger the cameras. Everything was done manually.”

Originally Eric triggered the shots from outside of the rig and the flashlight was hung from the ceiling, but “that was boring and not what I wanted to do” so instead he devised the invisible cameo role for himself to add a little more creativity to the shoot.

The 24 camera rig setup

Having mastered these DIY effects through experimentation on previous projects, Paré only had to spend an hour shooting with each of the 26 dancers and the entire project took just a month to complete. Still, the patience of a saint was still pretty important as it could take around five minutes to capture only two seconds of footage, with an hour to edit and process each sequence—removing any cameras that could be seen in shot and making sure the background was perfect pitch black.

Technical roadblocks had starved Paré off the stop motion effect on his previous 24x360 experiment, and so after finally mastering the hardware, software, and meters of cable to do it, he finally created a style that he had envisioned.

Dancer Leon Kupferschmid in the LightSpin series

Dancer Kim Henry in the LightSpin series

“When we started in September we had to wait one minute in between each frame for all the files to get to the computer and be processed, and then we could start doing another picture—that’s why there is no stop motion on the first project,” he told me. “But on this one we worked hard to be able to increase the frame rate. We set up a huge network with three computers around the rig: two computers are dedicated to receiving the file and then a main computer compresses the file in real time so we could see the final result as soon as it was shot. It was much easier that way because then we knew if there was a problem and the dancer could see what they could do better.”

Three computers and two-dozen cameras might seem a bit excessive for one person to own but even with all of this equipment the shoot didn’t quite capture like Paré had hoped. This meant the video was made to be fast and lively as opposed to slower and more atmospheric.

Dancer Lucie Vigneault

Dancer Margie Gillis

“I had some ideas at the beginning for it to be very slow. The final video is fast and we had to do that because we only had 24 cameras—that’s not enough to really make something smooth. To be able to make a really good project we would need 60 or 70 cameras on the rig. But as we had this limitation we decided to go with more techno music, and it’s working.”

For those who would like try their hand at remixing LightSpin themselves, you can have a go by visiting this website. Eric has even open sourced the software he developed to edit LightSpin—called Live Pixel JPEG Player, savvy photographers can make their very own version by downloading the software from GitHub and following Eric’s LightSpin tutorial.