Keanu Reeves in the 1999 movie The Matrix. (Photo by Ronald Siemoneit/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images)
Movies - TV
The Matrix's Original Bullet-Time Method Was A Little Too Risky To Work
The term "bullet-time" was first used in the original script for "The Matrix," when Neo (Keanu Reeves) bends back to evade bullets gliding through the air in slow motion. This effect is achieved using multiple cameras to give the impression of time slowing down, but back in 1999, the original method proposed to pull this off was a bit too risky.
The concept of bullet-time can be traced back to the 1966 anime, “Speed Racer,” after which many unrefined variations of the technique appeared in several kinds of media, including the films “Kill and Kill Again,” “Blade,” and even “Hard-Boiled.” Evidently, “The Matrix” realized the bullet-time effect in its true glory, thanks to better technology.
According to "The Matrix" director Lana Wachowski, the initial idea was to create a "liquid space" by placing "a slow-motion camera on a high-speed rocketlike device" to pick up on the smallest of movements, but this was impractical and carried the risk of equipment damage. Luckily, the bullet-time effect was then created digitally, which worked pretty well for the movie.
“The Matrix” used green screen technology, along with 120 still and motion capture cameras, to record Reeves, who was connected to wires that allowed him to pull off that backward fall. The entire shot came together with the aid of digital bullets and time-slice effects — a feat that took two years to design and cost a whopping $750,000!