Digital Photography Now -  
27th August 2003
Canon EOS-300Ds usher in the era of digital time slicing
by Ian Burley

Digital still cameras improve the production of moving images of frozen subjects

All the shots on this page were taken by one of the cameras in the 50-strong EOS-300D digital time slice ring

It's a week on from the Canon EOS-300D launch (yes a whole week! –Ed) but we can't quite leave that event behind. One of the memorable things Canon showed the assembled European press during the launch party, held at the exclusive London night club, Sketch, was the world's first 3D 'time slice' ring comprised exclusively of digital cameras – in fact no less than 50 (fifty!) shiny new Canon EOS-300Ds, fitted with 18-55mm EF-S lenses.

Bullet time
The arrangement of synchronised cameras to freeze action in three dimensions is a technique known as 'time slicing' or 'bullet time'. You may have seen the use of time-slicing in TV advertising and movie sequences, notably from the film 'The Matrix'. A well executed time slice shot produces the illusion of the subject being frozen in time and space, letting your view move past or around, even behind, it as it stays motionless, maybe in mid-air. The effect makes holograms look wanting!

To produce this illusion, literally dozens of shots need to be taken of the subject from carefully positioned angles of view. To freeze the action, all the cameras must fire at exactly the same time. You can also create a 3D motion effect by firing the cameras in sequence. With film camera time slice rigs, the results were only viewable after the film was removed from each camera, developed and then digitised. With the new digital time slice rig as soon as the sequence has been shot, images from the cameras are automatically downloaded to a central computer. This collates them into 'flip books' for almost instant playback.

A few journos, who had clearly consumed more than adequate quantities of champagne from rather interesting electrically illuminated plastic champagne flutes (that's another story –Ed), were given the opportunity to clamber inside the impressive circular rig of fifty 300D cameras and show off, but we won't mention any names!

One of the Canon launch party guests prepares for action inside the ring Within moments of being photographed inside the rig, performing feeble impersonations of Bruce Lee or other even more embarrassing actions which we can't go into (this is a family Web site! –Ed) the surrounding 'audience' was treated to a playback of the 3D action via large plasma screens on the wall.

"We really wanted to prove just how far the latest digital SLR technology could go."
"Time Slicing had never before been done with digital cameras, and it had never been done outside a studio environment," said Hiroshi Komatsuzaki, head of Canon Consumer Imaging Europe. "We really wanted to prove just how far the latest digital SLR technology could go."

"Using film means that between shooting and checking results, we lose at least one day to developing, printing, film collation and digitisation," explained Hector MacLeod, managing director of Glassworks, the post production company that worked with Canon on the project. "This is frustrating and incredibly costly if we need to recall everyone to re-shoot. Now with Canon we are getting results up instantly. I can't begin to tell you what a difference that makes."

MacLeod added: "Using Time Slice, there is no theoretical limit to the extent to which motion can be slowed down. For example, we could mount a series of cameras along and around the trajectory of a bullet and provided we could find a way to trigger the cameras and flashes quickly enough, we could show footage of the bullet leaving the barrel of a gun while the audience moves around it."

You've more than likely seen Glassworks' 3D wizardry in commercials and immersive marketing tools for clients such as Cadillac, Mercedes, Microsoft, Nike and the BBC, as well as pop promos for artists like Madonna, David Bowie and George Michael.

If you pause to think just how cumbersome, expensive and unreliable the old film camera time slice rigs must have been, don't be surprised to see a lot more 3D time-slicing on your TV screens from now on, all courtesy of the Canon EOS-300D.

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