News 26.03.19

TWENTY YEARS AGO POP-CULTURE HISTORY WAS WRITTEN IN AUSTRALIA WITH THE MATRIX



Who doesn’t remember the movie and iconic scene in which Keanu Reeves dodges dozens of bullets in slow-motion which would become a cinematic pop-culture phenomenon.

Twenty years after The Matrix was released, the movie still boasts a cult following. It is being screened in cult movie nights, there were talks of a re-boot and a whole (even if small) religion was formed, called the Matrixism. And all because Warner Bros., Silver Pictures and Australia’s Village Roadshow all took a chance and the studio equivalent of the ‘red pill’.

The Wachowski siblings pushed the parameters of movie-making and visual storytelling changing them completely and creating a new visual style; it took a quantum leap forward in terms of special effects (e.g. bullet time). It not only invented an alternate reality in the film but also a new concept of filmmaking that reflected the late 90s Zeitgeist with all its new tech inventions.

Ausfilm Platinum Member Animal Logic worked closely with the Directors, the Wachowski siblings, American Producer Barrie Osborne, Australian Producer Andrew Mason and Australian Production Designer Owen Paterson to ensure that the company’s design of the matrix code and production of one hundred effects would complement their vision. It was a project they would collaborate on for 15 months. This included creating the highly recognisable matrix code; the three agents comprised entirely of code whom Neo sees in the hotel corridor; the creation of the trace programme in the opening sequence; the screen inserts for the various monitors and gadgetry appearing throughout the film; the white-hot energy of the gun lightning effect, and more.

Zareh Nalbandian, VFX Producer on The Matrix; CEO & Co-Founder, of Animal Logic notes: “As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Matrix, we also mark an incredibly successful collaboration and partnership with Warner Bros. who have been so significant to the Australian film industry and to Animal Logic over the past two decades!”

Simon Whiteley, Matrix Code Designer said on the creation of the code:

The Wachowski siblings who had always admired Japanese animation and martial arts films wanted something simple, traditional and Japanese ‘manga’ for the Matrix code. My wife Miki happens to be Japanese and an amazing cook which was useful as I began studying the myriad of different Japanese characters and poured through her cook books for inspiration.

Katakana offered the clean simple forms I was after, so I hand drew some of the characters and mixed them up with hand drawn Arabic numerals and punctuation marks.

These I scanned into the computer, while Justen Marshall here at Animal Logic began writing a script to make them tumble randomly in lines across the screen with a lighter leading edge before they faded. I decided to go with an old CRT monitor vibe with green phosphor screen for the code, which seemed a perfect match for the Nebuchadnezzar’s makeshift interior and the timeless quality the Wachowski’s were after.

There was a problem though, it still looked like random green type running aimlessly across the screen. I went back home and looked through the cook books and magazines. They were all written back to front with the type set right to left and much of it running down the page in lines.

So I asked Justin if he could make our code run down the screen like traditional Japanese type as well as flipping it – as if we were inside the code looking out. As soon as we saw it we knew we had something, it was transformed into something more lyrical – melancholic like rain running down a window.

And so the Matrix streaming code was born.

As Production Designer, Art Director or anyone in this storytelling industry we are continually trying to provoke an emotional response from the audience. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things that can have the farthest reaching impact.

I like to think that somewhere amongst all that streaming code there are sushi recipes swimming around from those cook books but my wife, would like to point out sushi is normally written in kanji or hiragana and that it is more likely teriyaki recipes and ramen soup bubbling up through the Matrix code.

Other Ausfilm members that helped to make The Matrix a cult classic were: Create NSW, Fox Studios Australia, Spectrum Films and Warner Bros.