How A Polish Director Invented The “Bullet Time” Effect for Accept’s “Midnight Mover” video, 14 Years Before “The Matrix”
One of the more bizarre crossover directors of THE GOLDEN AGE OF MUSIC VIDEO is definitely acclaimed Polish director Zbigniew Rybczynski. A part of the avant-garde Polish film movement in the 1970s, Rybczynski developed a skewed view for his subjects and won the Oscar Award for Best Animated Short in 1983. Soon after, Rybczynski moved to New York and began using his eye for strangeness in form and editing by creating music videos. Rybczynski produced and directed clips for artists such as Art of Noise, Mick Jagger, Simple Minds, Pet Shop Boys, Chuck Mangione, The Alan Parsons Project, Yoko Ono, Lou Reed, Supertramp and Rush. His 1988 clip for John Lennon’s “Imagine” featured high-definition camera technology, as did his clip for Cameo’s “Candy”, the first music video shot in HD. Rybczynski won several MTV Awards, including the Video Vanguard Award for his contribution to music video, having injected his bizarre and often funny style into the genre.
Rybczynski got his metal moment in 1985 when he directed the video for Accept’s “Midnight Mover”, a wild and possibly seizure-inducing clip that features a similar concept and execution as the “bullet time”-effect moment in the 1999 film “The Matrix”, only without the view-morphing technology that digital filmmaking provides. Rybczynski told THE GOLDEN AGE OF MUSIC VIDEO (pardon his Polish-English) his recollection of the project, how he achieved that special moment, and how MTV asked him to change it.
“Really, it was just one of my experiments. I set up 16 film cameras. I built a big ring from pipes, a huge ring and I don’t remember exactly the radius of one circle. It was 12 degrees apart or something, but I don’t remember exactly, 15 degrees, let’s say, between each camera, and with every camera looking down the center of this ring. You could move this huge ring with film cameras in different positions and all the cameras were working in sync. Later, I again re-edit it from every camera angle.”
“I made it on film because, at this time, 16 video cameras would be much, much more complicated. I re-edited on optical printers, every frame from another camera, and then I choose this very fast speed. Later, people would use multi-cameras or photographic cameras to achieve this effect of the freeze frame — you can move inside a freeze frame — actually on the same principle, but I made it much earlier.”
“Anyway, when I made it, the edit and everything came out, and this was such an event for the band, then MTV they said ‘Not of all this, it’s a little too much. Please, you have to make some kind of close-up inside, or some normal edits.’ They called us because everything happened too quickly! It was a little too aggressive for its time. Today, I think it is something special, but remember, in the eighties, the principle in advertising was one cut per second. Today, in one second we can have five to six takes. But again, this was – many of these productions were made, and we never were sure what would be the effect. It was a big risk. My risk, and everybody who was participating in such a production — but that was always the most interesting way!”
Hold onto your hat and watch Accept’s “Midnight Mover” here, that scene from “The Matrix” (at 1:36 below) and catch up with the filmmaker at his website. Oh, and here’s that Gap commercial with the “bullet time” move, too.