13
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In the early 90's, at the San Francisco International Film Festival, I saw a short film that used the "bullet time" technique. This was way before The Matrix, which is often credited with "inventing" bullet time. I recall the short film being named "Wall", but I can't find anything about it online so it may have a different name.

The film consisted of a long shot of the front of a wide industrial building in sunshine. Techno music with a hard loud beat starts, and the camera "bullet times" around to one end of the building, looking down the front face of the building, and then "bullet times" around through an arc to the other end of the building, always with the center of the building in the middle of the frame. It "bullet timed" to the beat, very quickly. It looked like the building was dancing!

Then the camera returned to its long shot of the whole front face of the building and "bullet timed" up to the front doors, tilting up a little bit as it did, and "bullet timed" back out to the wide shot, still in time with the fast beat.

After doing both those "beats" for a while, the film abstracted the image more by showing a person's hand, against a white background, holding a series of photos. Each photo (one frame of film each) was a picture of the industrial building, from those same camera locations as the previous 2 "dancing building" shots, so it looked like the building was still dancing but within these jumpy handheld photos.

Does anyone know the correct name of that movie, or the year it came out, or have any links to it? It was pretty cool (and I'd like to be able to reference it in conversations about The Matrix).

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  • Sounds neat, though I don't know if it's necessarily the same as bullet time. Sounds more like stop motion (at least the part with the hand holding photographs). One camera capturing one frame at a time, and the scene or camera placement changing in between. The Matrix did its thing with many, many fixed cameras firing simultaneously (or in very rapid sequence) in order to capture the same instant in time. Tracking to the doors would also be tough with a bullet time rig, as each camera in the line would show the back of camera(s) in front of it. But it's simple with stop motion. – Flambino Dec 23 '15 at 12:14
  • @Flambino Really good points! The shot that seemed most bullet-time-y to me was when the camera appears to bullet-time around from one corner of the building to the other in a long arc. That shot could have been (but probably wasn't) done with all the bullet-time cameras set up to take a shot at the same time, with just the few closest to the building being "erased" during post production using CGI. But you're right that the rest doesn't sound like bullet time shots. – BrettFromLA Dec 23 '15 at 18:31
  • Yeah, bullet time works best for arcing and trucking shots. But given a relatively static scene and quick camera resets, you would get a very bullet-time'y look with just one camera. And stop motion allows better speed control, too. The Matrix used a ton of cameras but importantly also a ton of frame interpolation to stretch the footage. Both because 1 camera per frame is a nightmare, but also because cameras can't be as close as you might want. A short film from the early 90s probably didn't have dozens of cameras or CGI to help out :) – Flambino Dec 23 '15 at 18:50
  • @Flambino I completely agree! – BrettFromLA Dec 23 '15 at 18:52
12
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+150

The Wall, by Takashi Ito, 1987.

Screened at the SFIFF in 1989 as Part of Shorts in a Feature Length World.

I've never heard of this film before I read your post, but I love short films and problem solving.

Using the website for the San Francisco International Film Festival and searching the films of the past festivals with the word "Wall", I found this, which was really close to your description, and then I had a director's name, "Takashi Ito".

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I used his name and "Wall" to further research, and the most I could find about this director (in the Roman alphabet) came from this webpage, and sure enough, there were other stills of the film that further matched the memories you shared with us.

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Then I found it on Youku. The link on top of my answer is a direct link to this short film on YouKu (with lots of ads, sorry!), on the right-side of which are other of Ito's films. I also found out about a DVD of his works, that I might end up getting because I find this director's work interesting (although the film Wall isn't on there it seems).

I confirm that this is stop motion and not bullet-time, and that you could reproduce the effects in this film using your own digital camera.

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