The Matrix – Bullet-time

Back to 1999, to a classic film, …and to an effect that introduced mainstream audiences to moving through a frozen moment in time.

Prior to The Matrix coming out, Michel Gondry was the only other contemporary live action film-maker to toy with using a multiple camera set-up for freezing time. He had dabbled in a mix of timeslicing and morphing in the Rolling Stones music video “Like a Rolling Stone”, then in 1996 he did an advert for Smirnov Vodka where he used the camera array to freeze the action and move through the frozen scene (more similar to how Matrix would do it a few years later). You can see the advert below.

There were a number of other music videos and other cheats done between then and The Matrix, but The Matrix’s technique would redefine the standard (and see it being used for everything from TV shows to TV Adverts to music concerts). For a good rundown of the history that this effect came from, check out the wiki entry here.

The Wachowski siblings adapted the technique, …the biggest changes they made were having the ability to have motion cameras rolling at the start and end of the frozen sequence, plus going right around the subject (rather than a small arc).

Here is the raw passes, right through to the final effect seen in the film:

…and here is a great video on how they did it.