This Budget Bullet Time Effect is Simple and Impressive

When the new technique called bullet time debuted 20 years ago with the movie "The Matrix," the effect was so different and mind-blowing that it raised the bar for outside the box camera effects. A couple practice runs, a group of boys playing basketball, and a clever cameraman was all it took to pull off this big budget effect without even opening a wallet.

Now granted, this neat trick wouldn't work without complete control over movement in the scene. That means no jumping, moving cars, running water, animals, etc. This doesn't change the fact that a one-take with some basic direction and placement of the actors resulted in a very convincing effect that I'd imagine the creator will keep experimenting with.

The real magic of the original effect was capturing real-time footage from a number of different angles with no delay or split-second movement. This trick gave the viewer a truly immersive glimpse into the scene like never before. The team on "The Matrix" used an array of computer-controlled cameras placed in a circle around the subject. They also used large green screens so that the captured footage could be easily composited into the final production.

For this crew, the array of cameras was replaced by one moving cameraman, and the frozen motion was simulated by having everyone in the scene literally freeze in place while the camera was moved around the scene. I'd say they all nailed it. On a separate note, I'm fairly confident the ball handler wouldn't be called for a carry in today's NBA.

So what do you think? Was this an impressive way to pull off a big budget effect without breaking the bank?

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11 Comments

William Howell's picture

That was cooler than heck! Don’t get more low tech or innovative than that.

Tom Lew's picture

the result was was 1000x better than I thought it would be

Andrzej Muzaj's picture

LMAO! This is genius! :D

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Hah, so clever!

Rod Kestel's picture

That is very, very cool. And he's enhanced the effect by mixing it with slo-mo & faster shots. I totally have to give this a go.

Nick Rains's picture

Very cool. Love the simple method and the effective editing.
FWIW, the Matrix was not the first to do this - in The Human Body the BBC used a bunch of disposable cameras (pre digital!) fired at the same time. The Matrix guys took the idea one huge step further by sequencing the shots, not firing them at the same time.

Michael B. Stuart's picture

Good call, Nick! I was not aware of that at all.

David Vivian's picture

So impressed! Love this dyi ingenuity!

The ingenuity of my fellow country men...sadly the videographers and photographers here are being eaten by opportunists and the aspiring ones are being robbed by the bigger ones...