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Tim MacMillan - Time-Slice cameras

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1. The first camera

The first camera to create the frozen-time effect was devised in 1980 by Tim Macmillan at Bath Academy of Art during his BA. Fine Arts degree course. Originally a painter, Macmillan was interested in combining Cubist theory with contemporary technology.

Initially using hand-made photographic emulsions and photo grams, he went on to using a series of cameras creating multiple viewpoints of a space which were then collaged together. The multiple camera concept then made a lateral leap to being applied to cine film.

The first motion-picture camera designed specifically around the technique by Macmillan involved a length of 16mm film negative held in a channel. Above the neg Macmillan placed clear perspex spacers to give the camera a focal length. Above the spacers was placed a length of opaque 16mm cine magnetic tape with a pinhole drilled into each frame (cine magnetic tape is opaque). A simple shutter over the magnetic tape then provided the means of exposure. The result was a perpendicular tracking shot through a space.

The profound revelation was that while the viewer experienced a move through space, time was frozen. A paradox!

2. The square camera

Although proving the effect beyond doubt, the quality of the image was very soft due to the small image size at 16mm. Macmillan then enlarged the construction to accommodate 35mm motion picture neg, building a 2m square camera. This camera allowed a full 360 degree view of the subject. The effect worked when projected because the film frames and the apertures were all registered allowing the film to be viewed via a simple reduction print with no post-production.

3. The ten-sided camera

After receiving a BA Hons (first) at Bath, Macmillan went on to the Slade School of Art in London to pursue his ideas further. He constructed a ten-sided camera along the same lines as the square camera. This was made of mahogany, very much in the style of the 'Victorian' scientific instrument.

4. The 360 degree camera

However, the main aim of his post-graduate studies was to design and build a circular camera. This enabled a conceptual and visual unification of the process – it became possible to create an endless or infinite rendition of a discrete moment in time, ie the film was played as a loop. To illustrate this concept his degree show work took on the challenge of creating a series of time-slice® film loops showing a girl diving into a pool, with the camera half submerged in the water. Another 360 degree camera was built out in Japan while Macmillan was working and lecturing there.


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