Research Topic: Freeze-Frame Pans & Swoops
By Ian Mander, 14 April 1999.
Question: How do film makers etc do those amazing shots where the camera rotates around the subject but the subject is completely frozen in time?
Answer: Use heaps of cameras. Each frame in the "frozen" sequence is actually taken by a completely separate camera.
One particular variation of the technique is shown in these shapshots of the equipent used by the people who made the recent movie The Matrix.
Start off with lots of identical SLR cameras with electronic shutter releases. These pictured are Canon, but my own Pentax has an electronic shutter release, so the brand doesn't really matter - just get the focus right then ensure it's set to manual focus so when triggered, there's no delay while the camera figures out if it's in focus. And that's each and every camera.
As you can see, it all involves a lot of work - setting them up...
... then getting them all in exactly the right position, and pointing in exactly the right direction.
Then the really laborious part - compilation. Each photo has to be strung into the correct sequence, and nomally involves scanning each frame at high resolution, editing on a computer (including tweaking the exact framing), then printing back to film.
Just for kicks, see if you can figure out how much those cameras would be worth. (I counted about 47 cameras in that middle picture, not counting what look like a spare two on a table in the background.) And each one is just 1/24 of a second in the finished movie, or 1/25 second in a PAL music video/TV ad.