Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Shooting 3D stills


Just Curious---if anyone has heard of a Camera able to lock motion of selected subjects within a single frame. I've been told of a monsterious and wonderful device invented by a guy named Dayton Taylor that does just that. It may have been used in a recent car commercial to show the maneuverability of the vehicle around girls on a scooter and a kid with a ball at an intersection... ring any bells?

Leland Krane--

Hi, there was an article entitled 'Virtual Camera Movement: The Way of the Future?' and was in Sept 1996 issue. Interesting stuff, and there is someone in the UK using a similar technique, who we tried to get involved on a film shot last year, 'Photographing Fairies'. Unfortunately he was busy, expensive, arrogant and unhelpful, so we just used the 435 and adapted our ideas. But it seems complex and time-consuming, and I suspect that only commercials and fairly large budget pictures could really afford it, unless you custom built a rig and explored the possibilities, in which case it would be time-consuming and complex, and you'd have to pay instead of the production company.......

The gist of it is that you use a strip of still cameras, which are arranged around the (moving) subject in space. They are triggered simultaneously, and the resulting images transferred sequentially to 35mm film, or video or whatever. The result appears to be a tracking shot around a frozen subject, and has been described as having an almost 3D feel. It means you could track, say, 180 degrees around a popping balloon, or around an object or person in mid-flight or action.

A fascinating idea. After all even high speed motion picture cameras take pictures sequentially, and time cannot be stopped. Using this technique, time is stopped but we, as the camera/observer, can move through space, albeit limited in range by the number and separation of the individual cameras.

Chris Plevin

I think you refer to a technique called : Time Slicing", invented by Tim McMillan. So far everybody in this newsgroup refers to the system mentioned in the A.C. and showed on the "Shots" tape. Original a French idea using fifty stills camera.

The good thing about "Time Slicing" is that it all takes place in camera. The camera can freeze a moment of time whilst continuously panning around it and without stopping, move the image back in to real time live action all in a single take! You can dolly with the camera and even hang it on a crane.

I have seen some incredible shots on a showreel of "Live from Bermuda". Unfortunately I don't have a direct number for you, sorry.

Bastiaan Houtkooper (N.S.C.)

A few months ago there was an article in American Cinematographer about the system you're talking about. Sorry, don't know the issue and I just pulled in from a shoot at 2 am and am too beat tonight to dig it up. I've been thinking about it lately for a project and I've been meaning to track down the article. If I can find it in the next few days I'll post the issue number.

Mark Schlicher

Taylor's rig, as described on American Cinematographer last spring, was an arrangement of still cameras.

In essence, it is a line of still cameras with the shutters able to be triggered in whatever sequence is required. If one were to trigger each camera simultaneously, and then edit each frame together, the result would appear to be a "dolly" shot on a frozen moment in time. Others have tried this with varying degrees of success with a line of motion picture cameras. This results in a matrix of images, with the vertical axis of the matrix being a sequence in time (the film strip from one camera), and the horizontal axis a sequence in space (the same frame in time from each of the cameras).

By selectively editing images from this matrix together, infinite choices of camera "motion" over variable moments can be made to manipulate the motion / time relationship.

That's it in a nutshell. The technique has been attempted on a recent car commercial and music video (can't remember the car make or musicians), and it is rumored to have been used on "Batman and Robin" for some Mr. Freeze shots (or was at least being considered at one point), and I know it was at least considered for an upcoming effects driven English feature production.

I for one, don't really see much of a broad based application for this technique. I think it smacks of being terribly faddish, like morphs and no bleach. However, I've been considering uses for it, and know of some people who are rumored to be working on systematizing it. I'd love to here opinions from this group on it's viability.

Don Canfield

Dayton Taylor was basically using the same sort of setup that Muybridge used in the nineteenth century, just with optical triggering rather than a set of strings to trigger the shutters. It's an interesting effect, but of limited use and definitely difficult.

< You might consider just doing stop motion work instead... move the car an inch, move the camera an inch, fire the shutter, move the car an inch....

Scott Dorsey

I have recently seen this, or maybe a similar technique (?), used in a 'Coolio' rock clip - titled "I'll see you when you get there", also on David Bowie clip some time ago. I would love to know how involved (i.e. time consuming) and how practical it is for say a commercial. Anyone out there able to fill us in on these details ?

D. McClelland

There is a new Miller Beer commercial that uses this device. The shot is a 180' arc around a frozen moment of beer being poured (sloppily) into a mug. Funny thing though, it sort of looks like a model - you know, plastic beer like in novelty shops. I think its the execution that suffers here; the shot is on screen a short time and perhaps not close enough for TV. It could have even been the action photographed. The beer is splashing high out of the glass, at first I wasn't even sure what I was looking at.

Still kinda cool, though.

Dave Trulli

I remember the music video, though. It was The Stones covering "Like a Rolling Stone" last year. I recall dismissing it as just another piece of digital software, until I signed up for the CML. As far as it's "limited artistic applications" are concerned, I'm sure the technique could be use for somewhat subtler ends. And didn't they say, in the late fifties, that Hitchcock's Dolly/Zoom had "limited artistic applications"?


And they were, essentially, right. Overused, isn't it. Looks cool but usually meaningless in the context of the film. It's a show-off shot, calls so much attention to itself that one is pulled out of the film for a moment -- just like overused surround SFX -- they trumpet their existence and distract the viewer.

How about a little subtlety?

Jeff "the old crank" Kreines

Yeah, I have to agree with Jeff on this one. That shot, even when Hitchcock used it, was never anything other than "wow, look how that looks when we do this with the dolly and do this with the zoom" It is meaningless. Even to show a feeling. Spielberg ripped it off in Jaws. Every time I see it now, I think "oh wow, dolly/zoom thing again"

Charles "have nothing against dolly or zooms" Newman

The inventor of the system is Dayton Taylor.

It is quite a unique system. The Music Clip was for the Stones and is extraordinary but I'm not sure if that was Daytons system.

Boy you guys sound really negative about something that is a really neat way of looking at images and is somewhat new (in modern times). Sure it has limited uses and it is post heavy. But so what. For the right applications it's a tool to be used. Nothing more nothing less. Not something to be put down as "oh it's just a trendy trick and has no place." Where is our sense of wonderment and joy over something that is new and unique? And the person who asked the question obviously has an idea where this system can be used. Let's not try to talk him out of it before he even knows what it is, for heavens sake!

Steven Poster ASC

Touche. You're right about wonderment and such. There is no question that this effect is way cool. I suppose my unstated thoughts are wondering if it would be economically viable to create a camera system to create this effect on a broad market basis. There has been success in creating this effect in new and unique situations without sophisticated systems. So, would a comprehensive packaged system simply accelerate the effect becoming trite, passé, and cliché, and encourage its becoming an overused show-off effect?

Therein lies my analogy to morph and short-lived trends. Does the fad last long enough to justify building such a system ......? Just thinking out loud with out letting you know all that I'm thinking.

Not that any of this really matters.....

< Don Canfield

Real purpose ? How much deeper purpose did the Lumiere bros. need, Jeff ?

True, the 'Camera invention' here may have no real purpose in 'most films' but then in the history of this medium the trix came first (we all start as kids).

If we think of our default paradigm as flickering Renaissance painting (we have our camera obscura and our oils all in one small portable box) given movement... great beauty, ideas can be made from our conventional means of rendering motion in time, from the way we use the units, the frames.

But if we were to substitute a _sculptural_ metaphor, 'finding the form in the uncut stone' as they say... ?

(What is the 'purpose' of camera movement, for instance ? of Crane shots ?

Well we can and do assign all kinds of purpose, but why does the omniscience of camera movement have to be tied to the reproduction of _space_ & in (more or less) real-time ? Why NOT form instead ? Or Both ?)

Doesn't use of the 'Camera Invention' say: here is another way to deal out the deck of frames, it's Muybridge taken in another direction, maybe we might say motion-pictured-sculpture: the Greeks of the classic period for example, might have been damn near to doing Renaissance perspective, but they were interested in something else, in sculptural forms, that may not be our agenda but is this any less sophisticated a way to see/depict things ?

If _still_ photography is a legitimate means for conveying ideas and single-camera sequential cinematography is too, why not these 'dynamic stills' ? (I'm really being rhetorical here, I don't really know how far anyone could go with these gizmos).

Depends on how you use it, maybe it is an approach to imaging itself, not necessarily a gimmick to be inserted.

Sam 'not car shopping anyway' Wells

Or really overcranked with strobes. You could arrange the cameras in a circle, and do a continuous virtual dolly shot around a Doc Edgerton stroboscopic popping balloon... Muybridge for the 90s.

It would be cool, the first three times.

Then you could morph it and maybe use a shifting lensboard on each camera to play with focus and put it on the Flame and do some more stuff and maybe bring out that slow motion lens...

(above said ironically...)

Jeff "met Doc E once" Kreines

There's another company doing this type of effect, Paws and Company.

As a NY based efx person I've been intrigued with this type of imagery since seeing some examples going back about a year ago. There are several approaches to this type of visual effect. One method is via film-based image capture. That's the method Paws and company, Dayton Taylor, Tim McMillan, Reel EFX, etc. are pursuing. The other method is via CGI, such as Cineon interpolation.

I've seen the systems that Paws, Dayton, and Reel EFX have. Their all quite nice, but the Paws rig is much more of a system. They built their cameras from scratch, as Dayton has also done, but they've got the whole assembly, posting back end in place. Dayton just captures the image. The Reel EFX rig
is made of still cameras, nice but limited, and no back end support. The Paws rig is apparently very adjustable, any configuration you want, any length you want, any lens you want.....the Dayton rig I believe is 8' long with a fixed lens.

The apparent leader via the CGI method is a place in France called BUF. They do beautiful work but their abilities in manipulating the imagery is limited compared to the film-based approach.

I've a wealth of info on this effect, anyone want to reach me I'm at

Peter Weiss

And in the spirit of equal time to reply :-

Peter Weiss is not the objective visual effects director he makes himself out to be, but rather is an IATSE Local 52 Inside Prop and the "engineer" and part-owner of the PAWS system (see His post to seems a rather bizarre way of trying to promote his own system, to say the least.

Dayton Taylor


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