Extract from Tom Haberfellner Web Site
[quicktime] > [episode 2] > sfx: bullet time walk thru
combined single shots
all green box
the final scene
[text from bullet time walk through, movies tambien

capturing the action: bullet-time photography super slow motion would be relied on heavily in the stylization of the action scenes in "the matrix," but certain moments in the script called for something special. these scenes required dynamic camera movement around slow-motion events that approached 12,000 frames per second. the wachowskis called it "bullet-time photography."

this "flow-mo" process allows filmmakers almost unlimited flexibility in controlling the speed and movement of on-screen elements. for example, a fighter leaping into the air to kick his opponent could accelerate to the apex of his leap, appear to hover in the air, extend his leg in a lightening-fast movement, and then gently descend to the ground. joel silver describes the process as similar to "full-cel animation, only with people." the wachowskis met with john gaeta, the visual-effects director at manex, a visual-effects facility in northern california, to discuss their goals. says gaeta, "the wachowskis are from the comic-book culture, and are therefore familiar with the japanese animation style called anime, which we re-created with live actors for this movie. anime takes advantage of 'the physics of decimation' - it breaks down action into its components and allows those elements to be meticulously controlled to build the most dramatic effect from dynamic movement."

gaeta's team and the filmmakers first blocked out the action that was going to be rendered and filmed the scene using conventional cameras. then they scanned the images into a computer and, using a laser-guided tracking system, "mapped out" the movements of the camera that would capture the final scene. a series of sophisticated still cameras was placed along the mapped path, each of which would shoot a single still photo. then the photos were scanned into the computer, which created a strip of still images, similar to animation cels. the computer generated "in-between" drawings of the images - much as animators draw frames to move their characters smoothly from one pose to another - and the completed series of images could be passed before the viewers' eyes as quickly or slowly as the filmmakers wanted without losing clarity. obviously, this painstaking technique takes time and precision, but it renders moving objects and people in a completely new way. says joel silver, "it's like the japanese films "ghost in the shell" or "akira" - but ours is a real-life film depiction of anime, whereas those are animated films. we've used every kind of visual effect utilized before and taken each one step further."

Important Comment about the Bullet Time SFX

Extract from Lokmer in an ezboard mailing list.

Bullet Time and Frozen worlds are two different iterations of the same effect, called Virtual Camera Movement. Despite what the guys on the Matrix DVD would have you believe, they did not invent this effect, nor did they revolutionize the technology that makes this effect possible. Here's the dope:
Virtual Camera Movement (VCM) was developed in 1994. It has since been used in a variety of motion pictures, including Lost in Space and The Matrix. There are two separate patented systems that produce this effect for films: One which takes a series of stills on still cameras triggered by computer ( reelefx.com/ ) and is capable of full 360 degree arcs , and the other which passes motion picture film through an array of lenses ( www.virtualcamera.com/welcome.html and here is an article on it written by the inventor: www.virtualcamera.com/ascmag.html ) and is, at the moment, limited to arcs of around 90 degrees. Both methods are patented and offered only through these two companies, as far as I know. The latter is the original process, the former is the newer process and is the one used in The Matrix and Lost in Space. Both are capable of producing frozen moments (a.k.a. Frozen World) and Flo-Mo (a.k.a. Bullet time). The major contribution that The Matrix team made to the process was adding 3D bullets with refracting Nurbs shockwaves to the finished product, creating the illusion of Neo dodging the bullets.
Personal rant:
Now, don't get me wrong, I loved The Matrix, but the FX were NOT revolutionary (particularly this one). They were what most good effects are: minute adaptations improvised upon tried and true technologies. However, listening to the Matrix DVD commentary and the "What is Bullet Time" special, you come away with the idea that they invented or at least seriously revolutionized the process - an impression reinforced by their renaming the process to make it their own - which is a total load of bullshit. To add insult to injury, they won the Oscar over TPM, which, whether you liked it or not, was the most FX intensive film in history. I loved the work they did on The Martix, I'm looking forward to the next film, but one thing I really really hate is someone taking credit for someone else's work, or drawing more attention to themselves than they're legitimately due (i.e. arrogance and immodesty).
*End of Rant*