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Bullet-time video of parkour, breakdancing, gymnastics is awesome

Using a special filming technique, a cinematographer makes the sports of parkour, tricking, breakdancing and gymnastics look even more amazing.

High flying. Video screenshot by Michael Franco/CNET

Cinematographer Marc Donahue must have really liked "The Matrix," because his company, Permagrin Films, excels at using a technique popularized by that film franchise called bullet-time action. That's the special effect that freezes action in midair and lets you look all around the scene -- you know, like when Neo bends over backward to dodge bullets.

For his latest work, "Breaking Gravity" (see below), Donahue headed into the San Diego United Training Center in California where a variety of athletes tumble, twirl and twist through the air practicing their skills.

The effects in the video are accomplished with an array of 20 GoPro cameras mounted on a arc, all shooting the same scene from different angles. Donahue also used a Red Epic -- a high-speed, high-resolution camera -- to capture his shots.

The guys in the video come from a range of high-flying disciplines including parkour/freerunning, gymnastics and "tricking" (guys doing crazy flips and maneuvers). The video also features a San-Diego-based bboy group (breakdancers) known as the Uncomfortably Fresh Crew.

If it seems like all the athletes are a bit superhuman in the height they can get off the mat, that's because they have a bit of help. In his comments about the video, Donahue says they are using an AirTrick Mat, an air-filled mat that gives athletes a bit of extra bounce.

Mat or no, the skills these guys have are impressive enough, but when filmed with Donahue's bullet-time action techniques, they become simply awe-inspiring, don't you think?