View Full Version : matrix bullets

04 April 2003, 06:53 AM trying to add some matrix style bullets into one of my pictures. anybody have any suggestions of how i should make the path or wavy part of the bullets?


Ian Jones
04 April 2003, 12:55 PM
The shockwave effect you are referring to is basically 'refraction'. When you look through a glass, or water the objects behind it will be bent or mishapen by refraction. In the Matrix example, they probably placed a 3D object that is shaped like a wind stream off the back of the bullet and it animates as if it is wavy like dropping a stone into a pond. When they come to render the scene they make the object invisible, but they turn on its 'refractive' property so that it still bends and warps the rest of the scene, background buildings, people or whatever else is behind the shockwave. This is just the same sort of effect you would get from heatwaves, engine heat etc...

To simulate this in your image, you could use a 3D program and do it in a similar way to how they may have done it in the Matrix, but you coud also investigate using Photoshops 'displace' filter. You want to affect and warp / bend the background image, so this filter is ideal for bending the area you want to in a custom shape you need, like a shockwave.

There are many tutorial sites out there that describe how to use the displace filter, search for one using google. Also try the photoshop help, cos nearly all the answers are always already there... :)

04 April 2003, 05:48 PM
that effect is an incredibly involved process but I think you can start with the elliptical marquee tool. Create an ellipse of slightly larger than the approximate size of the refractive circle and then stroke the selection (edit > stroke) and then use the rectangular marquee to select the entire thing. Then define it as a brush through "edit > define brush." Then use a brush and select that new brush u created in the brush options then stroke a path where u want that bullet path. Oh yeah, change the spacing accordingly to what u need. Then use a perspective transform to shrink one of the ends to give that perspective look. Then from there u can use a marquee tool to select the rings and start messing with blurs .... but yeah, it's going to take u a really long time to get something like what the matrix has ....

as for the matrix, what they did is that they had a high speed camera that took shots of bullets (real ones) that were shot through a very large fire. The bullets passing through the heat became heated and were able to create a distortion wave in the pattern u describe using the heat from the flame ... I'm not sure the technicals... but I think they used an infrared camera of some sort or something else to get the effect..... yeah.... in the matrix DVD, there's a whole section about the making of the movie where they explain the bullet time bit.

Ian Jones
04 April 2003, 07:06 AM
singularity2006: Your shitting me right? did they actually do it like that? cos thats just silly. It would be so much easier in CG.

04 April 2003, 12:49 PM
No that's not exactly what they did. Sure they had many stills camera set up in a circle and all in tern going off under .3 of a second, but when it came to the bullet they enter in to a 3d program the points in space a direction of the camera target to what it was when they shot in real life. When they simple made the bullet in cg going along on its path they creating the refraction that ian described earlier.

I hope that made sense :hmm:

04 April 2003, 07:05 PM
really?? how odd, i could have sworn that I saw them doing it by shooting a bullet through an incredibly hot fire to record the heat refraction because hot air does that kind of refraction .... that's the only way they could get the refraction waves for the effect they desire.... in CG, the calculations would be too incredibly complex i think...

04 April 2003, 08:35 PM
The Bullet Time ripples were created in entirely in 3d. In fact most of the bullet time shots were “computer generated” even Neo. Check out Paul Debevec’s article

The shots taken from the 120 still cameras of Keanu Reeves dodging the bullets against a green screen were first tracked and stabilised. Then the motion was smoothed out using frame interpolation where the computer takes frame 1 and frame 2 then digitally creates an inbetween frame to effectively add more frames per second to the film.

The bullets and ripples (which are technically inaccurate but look nice) were created in 3d and added to the 3d background.

If you look at real high speed photography of bullets travelling through air you will see that they leave no visible heat ripples. Btw to catch real bullets on film you need to shoot at something like 10000 frames per second!!! make the high speed cameras.

Ian Jones
04 April 2003, 12:01 AM
na na! told you so! :D

04 April 2003, 01:08 AM
whoa, weird... then where did i see that vid of them shooting bullets through fire? Cuz yeah, i know that bullets make no visual trail when fired... that's why they fired the bullets through the flame to get that effect.... cuz it was something like in the video they shot bullets through the flame and took the recording and transposed the result using CG to film.... but ehr... nm.

04 April 2003, 04:56 PM
Coooooooooooooooooooooooooool!!!!!!!! :applause: :applause: :buttrock: :buttrock:

04 April 2003, 09:47 AM
Has this question been resolved yet? Got lost in the side-topics. :)

I tried a couple tests after studying the movie clip of this bullet scene, and am now believing that with a bit'o'tweaking, a reasonable facsimilie of this effect CAN be produced, using the Displace filter.

I say 'tweaking' because specific looking effects will require specific types of tweakedge.

Studying the middle frames of the clip showed that the displacement of the bullets is simply warping the image behind the trails -- like glass or water would. Attached here is the dMap i created that will produce the same displacement effect, but you'll need to play with the strength of the settings to achieve YOUR desired results. I tested using 40% Horiz 0% Vert.

Another thing to note is the perspective of the effect as it gets further away from the viewer. In this case, you'd want to take this dMap image and save it as a Pattern first. If you use the image below, you'll need to remove the neutral grey bg first.

Select the area you wish to effect, then fill the selection with the Pattern image.
This will server 2 purposes:
1) as highlights/shadows for the displaced areas (softlight mode @ 50-70%);
[b]2)]/b] to create an exact selection to fit the dMap into.

Ctrl/Cmd-click this pattern fill to make a selection of it, then while on your bg photo layer press Ctrl/Cmd+J to copy the selected area to it's own layer.

Ctrl/Cmd-click this layer now and apply the Displace filter to it; using the dMap shown below (or your own if you choose to recreate this one yourself).

Anywho... just thought i'd add to the topic. Was interesting getting this to work. ;)
Once you try it you'll see that the effect can indeed be done fairly well -- for a still image. Play around with it, tweak some settings, etc etc...

04 April 2003, 07:17 PM
hey the very well, but theres one problem...when i displace the image, it doesnt exactly line up with the pattern. do u know how to fix this?

04 April 2003, 10:42 PM
Yes, actually i had a certain problem myself. It was to do with filling the selected area with the pattern. The pattern fill was misaligned.

Try creating a rectangular selection that is higher/taller than what you need/want. 1.5 times higher should work. You can leave the width of your selection set to what you want/need it to be.

Get what i mean?
For whatever reason, this seems to resolve the aforementioned problem.

Now fill the selection with the defined pattern. Deselect. Then move this layer to where you want the effect to be seen/applied (over top of your photo).
Ctrl/Cmd-click the pattern layer to make a selection that conforms to the shape of the pattern.
Then activate your main photo layer, Ctrl/Cmd+J to copy the selected area to a new layer... Ctrl/Cmd-click the pattern layer again to activate the selection once more, then run the Displace filter within that selection. Deselect.

If you do the steps in the order i show here, your pattern and the displaced area of your photo "should" align to each other. If they still do not, then you may be using too high a Displace setting. Try a slightly lower one.

Hope that helps.

PS: if anyone would like to try learning about the Displace filter, i highly recommend my friend Stroker's site:
He has an excellent grasp on how this filter works.

04 April 2003, 11:18 PM
Been keeping an eye on this thread. Little too busy to seriously participate, though.

When I get the chance, I'll explain my Double Emboss Technique. Works very well for bullet trails and is versatile for a wide variety of looks and feels.

For sneak peek of what I have in mind, read:
More Fakery ( and
Hand Made Highlight and Shadow Masks (
Sprinkle liberally with savvy use of Gradients and/or Curves, and you are good to go.

I'll explain more when I get the chance. Who knows? Maybe you'll figure out what I'm hinting at before I get the chance to explain.

04 April 2003, 03:26 AM
I got the bug. Here we go -

Shortly after The Matrix came out, there have been quite a few requests on how to achieve the affect of bullet trails. For the first time since the first movie, I'm going public with how I go about it. Fairly easy technique with lots of versatility.

I'm going to be running through this rather quickly. I'm leaving it up to you to fill in the blanks and put it all together.

The first thing is squishing for a bit of perspective. You know, taller than wider or whatever you want to call it. Lay some guides with the Line tool, expand a bit, make some circles, and then squish it back down.

See? That wasn't so bad.

Next comes the actual circles. Gradient tool set to Radial and some Blending Mode is great. I just dragged a whole bunch out real quick, so pardon the sloppiness.

Along the top is set to Screen. In the middle is set to Lighten. Along the bottom is a Custom Gradient - not that hard to do if you know your way around the Custom Gradient dialog. Something like Black - White - Black with the White dragged way off to the side. Pretty spiffy. Too bad I didn't bother squishing them back down.

(Personally, I prefer the "shock wave" radial gradients. There is just something about them that I like over the others.)

If you want to jazz it up even more, try Curves:
Intro to Curves ( by Steve
I can't stress enough the power of Curves, especially when used on gradients.

Plenty of room to play with the base circles. Don't be afraid to mix it up and try different things. You know, space them out or make them real tight. Whatever.

Oh yeah. The above was done entirely in the Layers palette. That's kind of important. If you do it in the Alpha palette, you will be in for some cut-n-paste. Besides, we'll be using Emboss, and Emboss leaves behind a lot of lovely gray, so Layers palette is just what the guru ordered.

Time for the "Double Emboss". This is done in the seperate R and G channels. Go to the Red channel and run Emboss. Use whatever values. In mine, I took it easy on the values. Then go to the Green channel and run Emboss again using basically the same values (the only value I changed is the Angle, which I prefer to do at a 90 from what I did in the Red channel). As a matter of preference, I went to the Blue channel and filled with 50% Gray. Then I topped it off with a small about of Gauss.

Save that bad boy as a PSD to be used as a D-Map and get busy with Displace.

One of the cool things about this is the amount of control over the motion. If you are familiar with The Cubes ( and how Emboss works, you can do trails that twist a certain way or expand/contract. Or you can just mess around and leave it to chance. In the Emboss step, there is as much control or leway as you want.

Or you could leave Emboss behind and use Lighting Effects as mentioned in More Fakery ( This means tossing the base circles into an Alpha channel. Or maybe you did the base circles in an Alpha channel instead of the Layers palette. Ummm... yeah.

There are a few ways to do the back-facing of the trails, but I'll leave that to you. Not exactly necessary, but it is good exercise. Another good exercise is adding a touch of highlights by using the D-Map. Again, not necessary, but it is good exercise and might add a bit of pop.

Now, if you want something really snazzy, toss in some of the ideas from Heat Waves ( and make that bad boy move!

I'm pretty sure I got the major bases covered. However, I've been known to leave people's brains in the dust.

Any questions?

04 April 2003, 01:52 PM
Hmm... Not sure if this has been sugested already, but...
Wouldn't it be easier doing it in 3D ? Isn't is basicly a shape twisting the image ? I mean, displacing it ?

04 April 2003, 05:21 PM
Actually yes, that has been suggested; almost right from the start of the thread.

However... the person asking the questions directed it toward being done in Photoshop. And, i'm not sure, but he may not even have a 3D app.


04 April 2003, 01:27 AM
actually yes...i use maya 4.5. The image im trying to add the effect to was done in maya...anybody know hoe to do that in maya? i guess it would be easier and would look better

04 April 2003, 08:52 AM
Oh ok then, cool. Thx for clearing that up. :buttrock:

Yes, it would look better done in a 3D app, but as for "easier"... can't say, i use C4D. I'd imagine it shouldn't be too too difficult though.

There MUST be some Maya users in da house???...

04 April 2003, 01:13 PM
take a look at this i found it on the net

04 April 2003, 10:20 PM
Hey nice find. :applause:

Looks like the "Liquify" filter.
Good effect it has too.

I would imagine that took more work than what it would first appear to have taken. ;)

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