Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bullet Time: Who Did It First?

Let me start off by saying that this post came about because I found, to my surprise, the Matrix Revisited DVD, which has been out of print for some time now, at a local store recently.

When I first saw The Matrix, I wasn't really impressed. But over time, the movie grew on me, and having overcome my initial take that the film was more style than substance, I now accept it as a very entertaining and very clever movie that uses a lot of known ideas and technology of the time and packaged them all in a very appealing way. It's great eye candy, an exciting Cinema Of Spectacle that at least doesn't dumb down its audience. And best of all, it brought the great Master Yuen Wo-ping to international recognition.

Now, in the Matrix Revisited documentary, there's a very funny segment about "bullet time," a special effect that has been largely credited to the Wachowskis. At first, they were trying to figure out how to execute the bullet time scene, and initially thought they could strap cinematographer Bill Pope to a rocket. Of course, that fell through pretty quickly (!), and later everything else they thought up somehow involved the prospect of the camera blowing up.

But what gets me wondering is why the Wachowskis had to think that hard to come up with the innovation when it was already used in a music video from 1997, two years before The Matrix.

That video is Coolio's C U When U Get There, and you can watch it here, complete with two or three bullet time sequences.

Granted at the time of the music video, the bullet time didn't look as polished or smooth as in The Matrix, but the fact remains that someone had already done it two years before. I recall watching Coolio's video and wondering how they did the effect, going around people and objects in a frozen frame.

So, who did it first?

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