The Digital Visual Effects in the Matrix – Bullet time

Since the advent of the ‘bullet time’ in the “Matrix”, it has become a new film language that the other film makers are following, and it brings a new visual experience to the audience. ‘Bullet time’ also known as frozen moment, the big freeze, dead time, flow motion or time slice. It is a visual effect or visual impression of detaching the time and space of a camera (or viewer) from that of its visible subject. (Argy, 2001)


In the “Matrix “, the magic bullet special effects scene is one of the most classical shot in the visual effect in the history, the shot continuously rotate 360 degrees, let the audience observe this beautiful slow motion shots segment, people think it is very easy to finish it, but only the Wachowski brothers know how this is work. At first, they have an inspiration from comic book, “comic books can present many beautiful shots, it allows the action frozen, you can make slow motion action scenes look more realistic.

“So we came up an idea to achieve this effect, we use the method of moving the camera, we try to shoot a target with very slow speed, and then move the camera at normal speed to surround it. At the beginning, they came up with a bold idea. Make a tiny emitter tied to the camera, so the camera can move at a very fast speed. However, this approach does not work, the camera will explode.(Mtime,2008)

Later effects supervisor John Gata put forward a program that is let the target surrounded by a circle of cameras, which allows the camera to quickly capture each shot, and then use post production to improve the effect. As Prince mentioned in his book, the digital technologies as an expanded toolbox, available to enhance both realist films and cinematic fantasies. (Prince,2011)

It is a new visual effect which never use before, it is a visual feast for the audience, the film become more vivid and realistic.This scene become an achievement of the visual effect in the film history.

Written by: Chengxi Li


Argy, Stephanie (21 January 2001). Frozen f/x still in action: There’s less love for morph”. Retrieved 3 April 2012.

Prince, S. (2011). Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality. Rutgers University Press, p.33.


Mtime, 2008, The development of visual effect,


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