Image by Ahriel Povich

Centriphone - a ski video made possible by 3D printing

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Professional freeskier Nicolas Vuignier went viral this month with his Centriphone ski video, amassing more than 3 million views. What few people who watched the video realize is how essential his Ultimaker 3D printer was to the creation of this video.

In the clip Nicolas skies down the slopes while holding a line in his raised right hand. The line is attached to a camera which zooms past him in a perfect slow-motion 360° loop, reminiscent of the bullet time effect in the Matrix movies. The result is a hypnotic short video where Nicolas floats in the powder as if time was distorted. But what is not immediately obvious is that this was a project two years in the making.

Developing Centriphone

Nicolas was first inspired to explore this concept in 2013. During his tests he discovered that simply swinging a camera held by a line did not result in the smooth footage he had imagined. The forward movement of a skier hurtling down the slopes creates turbulence in the surrounding air, disturbing the flight of the camera and sending it into uncontrollable spins. Instead, he needed to create an aerodynamic rig that would stabilize the camera.

In his Making Of video Nicolas explains how, over the years, he developed the Centriphone rig using an Ultimaker printer.

At first Nicolas tried to use his GoPro to film himself, but the 120 frames per second speed was not suitably slow-motion enough to create the effect he was looking for. Instead he opted to use his iPhone6 with a wide-angle lens in his test rigs, shooting at a blazing 240 frames per second. The phone survived this testing phase perfectly and that footage, slowed down an additional 10%, would give Centriphone that breathtaking slow-motion effect.

Nicolas tested six different prototypes of his rig, trying a variety of different shapes until he achieved his goal of stable flight. When he had the final flight dynamics down he 3D printed the rig on his Ultimaker 2+ to create the most lightweight version possible. And the results, more than 3 million views later, prove that the Centriphone is an unmitigated succes!

Open Source, 3D Printed Centriphone

Encouraged by the positive feedback he received, Nicolas wanted to bring his filming technique to a broader creative community by open-sourcing his work on GitHub. A market-ready finished product is also in the making and available for pre-order from his site, for those who do not want to print their own Centriphone. He hopes that many more people will use his rig for a 'bullet time effect on a budget' and will ultimately help improve the concept he spent two years creating.

Centriphone render 1
Centriphone render 2
Centriphone render 3
The Centriphone 3D model

Definitely let us know if you print your own Centriphone and create a bullet time video this season; we'd love to see what all the creative skiers and snowboarders in our community do with it!