Test glory enters the Matrix of special effects
David Warner switch hits for six. Photo: Getty Images
CHANNEL Nine is bringing The Matrix to the David Warner switch hit. Cricket broadcasting is renowned for its new 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 in the US and coverage of international soccer, will be part of Nine's broadcasting arsenal for Australia's second Test against Sri Lanka.
Playing on the famous bullet-dodging scene, featuring the actor Keanu Reeves, in the science-fiction film 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 special 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,'' said Brad McNamara, the network's executive producer of cricket.
''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 it, we can make him disappear, we can make him come up again, we can move him.''
Nine tested it in Hobart during Australia's first Test win and also plans to introduce the technology, provided by the Swiss company LiberoVision, into its coverage of the National Rugby League 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 with far fewer cameras.
Although dismal crowds in Hobart painted a poor picture of Test popularity, 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 Adelaide Test against South Africa last month.