Nine brings 'bullet time' to Tests with Matrix -inspired replays

CHANNEL NINE are bringing The Matrix to the David Warner switch hit. Cricket broadcasting is renowned for its gizmos and gimmicks, but the latest innovation to the Test summer - to be rolled out at next week's Boxing Day Test at the MCG - is not your routine new camera angle.

The virtual 3D replay, a staple of the NFL and coverage of international and European football, will be part of Nine's broadcasting arsenal for Australia's second Test against Sri Lanka.

Playing on the famous bullet-dodging scene, featuring Keanu Reeves, in The Matrix, the technology will allow the network's production crew to give viewers a slow-motion, rotational panoramic view of replayed moments, whether they be wickets, pull shots or mid-pitch confrontations.

The groundbreaking effect, which is made possible by combining the shots of the broadcaster's on-field cameras, was popularised by the Wachowski brothers' movie 13 years ago when it earned the industry name ''bullet time''.

Nine thinks it can also make a significant impact on cricket, in which it has never been used. ''Basically it sticks together all our separate camera angles into a virtual world but with real pictures,'' Brad McNamara, the network's executive producer of cricket, said.

''Say you wanted a shot of Dave Warner switch-hitting from down the pitch, and then you wanted it side on. In years gone by, we could do a split screen, or we could roll the replay from down the pitch and then roll the replay from the side. Now we can stitch them together, so if you want to get that replay from halfway down the pitch, you can go round the side whenever you want and freeze it. Rather than having to look at it from five different camera angles and five separate bits of tape, we can basically circle him.

''It's the same sort of thing as The Matrix. We can look at it in one continuous sequence. We can freeze it if we want to, we can move it on, we can stop it if we want, telestrate [put graphics on] it, we can make him disappear, we can make him come up again, we can move him.''

Nine tested the revolutionary conglomeration of camera angles in Hobart during Australia's first Test win and also plans to introduce the technology, provided by the Swiss company LiberoVision, into its NRL coverage next year.

While more than 100 cameras were required to produce the effect on The Matrix , Nine will be able to bring it to fruition - following in the footsteps of ESPN with their NFL Monday Night Football and BSkyB's coverage of the English Premier League - with far fewer cameras.

''Any camera angle we've got we can use for this,'' McNamara said. ''If you include our run-out cameras and Hot Spot cameras and Spidercam, we've got in excess of 40 cameras now. We can stitch any of those together.''

McNamara said the virtual replay ''is a hard thing to describe'' but hopes viewers will be impressed. While dismal crowds in Hobart painted a poor picture of the popularity of Tests this summer, Nine's ratings are up 13 per cent, peaking at a combined metro and regional audience of 1.674 million on the final day of the dramatic Adelaide Test against South Africa last month.

''Like all new technology, it might take us a while to fully get our head around it but we're pretty confident it will give the viewers a new experience,'' he said.

''It's a first in cricket and, hopefully, it will give viewers a much better look at incidents and the action. Hopefully it's a game changer for sports broadcasting.''

This story Nine brings 'bullet time' to Tests with Matrix -inspired replays first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.