A visual effect that requires a lot of cameras. Or does it? We’re taking a look at what exactly the bullet time effect is!

You may not know the bullet time effect by name, but you’ll almost certainly have seen it in action in films and TV. Perhaps one of the most famous examples is The Matrix. In fact, the term “bullet time” was first used in the script for The Matrix, to describe the classic scene where bullets fly past Neo’s head.

What Is the Bullet Time Effect?

Bullet time refers to a visual effect that gives the impression of detaching the time and space of a camera (the audience) from those of its subject. Put simply, it enables the camera/viewer to move through a space in regular time, whilst subjects have either slowed down or frozen completely.

Here’s the classic example…

Now, some of the VFX in The Matrix could be described as questionable. However, bullet time, as you can probably guess, is a relatively advanced visual effect that requires a pretty complex set up.

How Is It Achieved?

The slowing down of events whilst moving through a space at normal speed is almost impossible to achieve with standard slow motion. This effect seemingly could only be created using a “virtual camera” within a computer generated environment. However, there are technologies that enable it to be achieved in realworld settings.

It is a pretty technical process that can involve computer-generated visualisations as guides, as well as lasers. So, we’ll give the simpler breakdown.

There are a couple of methods depending on the desired final effect. One option is setting up still cameras around a subject. Photographs would be taken in quick succession, capturing many angles of the subject. These shots would then be arranged to give the effect of hyper-slow motion or the stopping of time.

The way the effect was achieved in The Matrix involves rolling cameras being set off at extremely close intervals. Cameras were arranged on a predesigned, curved track, creating the variation in angles and viewpoints. This method allows for events to still unfold in slow motion, whilst the camera “moves”.

DIY Bullet Time Effect

It would seem like this complex visual effect requires a lot of expertise and equipment. This could leave you thinking, “I can’t recreate this in my video projects.” But, that’s not strictly true!

Rather than needing upwards of 10 cameras, here’s how you can achieve the high-tech looking effect with just one.

You can get your hands on a bullet time handle, that enables you to recreate the effect. However, just like Accro in the video, you can knock up your own budget version easily.

Any awesome video is only ever made better with great music. Check out the Synchedin library for thousands of fantastic royalty free tracks that will elevate your bullet time videos.

If you have a go at creating your own bullet time video, we’d love to see it! Just get in touch at info@synchedin.com.