Trademarked by Warner Bros., “bullet time” is a special effects trick that uses time lapse photography and specific camera angles to produce scenes in which action that would normally be outside the scope of our brain’s ability to perceive is slowed down, while the audience watching the action continues to travel at regular speed, seeing the scene from different points of view. It’s the technology used by the Wachowskis in their Warner Bros.-produced 1999 movie The Matrix when Neo and Trinity (played by Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss) find themselves in a roof-top face off with Agent Smith(s).
Executing a back bend that would turn the most dedicated of yogis green with envy, Neo dodges Smith’s bullets (for a time) by manipulating the Matrix—the audience experiences this as a slowing down of action: the bullets travel at the speed of a gently lobbed softball, leaving trails behind them while the camera swings a circle around Neo in real time (or at least that’s how it appears to us).
It isn’t an easy trick to pull off at home, and yet the people at DustFilms (you might have read about their homemade movie trailers here and here) have managed to. A cleverly disguised chair and what looks to be a handful of Slinkys stand in for time lapse cameras and a special effects team (the creative types at DustFilms never use effects on their homemade projects—that would kind of defeat the purpose). And the sound effects don’t come from a foley artist—they’re made the same way an eight-year-old engaged in an imaginary lightsaber battle would make them.
You can see the awesome recreation below, plus a video of a split-screen, side-by-side comparison with the original movie. If you’re interested in how director Dustin McLean works his sweding magic, check out the behind the scenes video of Bullet Time here.