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Visual Effects

"As for artistic inspiration for bullet time, I would credit Otomo Katsuhiro, who co-wrote and directed Akira, which definitely blew me away, along with director Michel Gondry.

His music videos experimented with a different type of technique called view-morphing and it was just part of the beginning of uncovering the creative approaches toward using still cameras for special effects.

Our technique was significantly different because we built it to move around objects that were themselves in motion, and we were also able to create slow-motion events that 'virtual cameras' could move around – rather than the static action in Gondry's music videos with limited camera moves." . . . —John Gaeta

The film is known for popularizing a visual effect known as "bullet time", which allows a shot to progress in slow-motion while the camera appears to move through the scene at normal speed.

Bullet time has been described as "a visual analogy for privileged moments of consciousness within the Matrix", and throughout the film, the effect is used to illustrate characters' exertion of control over time and space.

The Wachowskis first imagined an action sequence that slowed time while the camera pivoted rapidly around the subjects, and proposed the effect in their screenplay for the film.

When John Gaeta read the script, he pleaded with an effects producer at Manex Visual Effects to let him work on the project, and created a prototype that led to him becoming the film's visual effects supervisor.

The method used for creating these effects involved a technically expanded version of an old art photography technique known as time-slice photography, in which an array of cameras are placed around an object and triggered simultaneously.

Each camera is a still-picture camera not a motion picture camera, and it contributes just one frame to the video sequence. When those pictures are shown in sequence, they create the effect of "virtual camera movement"; the illusion of a viewpoint moving around an object that appears frozen in time.

The bullet time effect is similar but slightly more complicated, incorporating temporal motion so that rather than appearing totally frozen, the scene progresses in slow and variable motion.

The cameras' positions and exposures were previsualized using a 3D simulation. Instead of firing the cameras simultaneously, the visual effect team fired the cameras fractions of a second after each other, so that each camera could capture the action as it progressed, creating a super slow-motion effect.

When the frames were put together, the resulting slow-motion effects reached a frame frequency of 12,000 per second, as opposed to the normal 24 frames per second of film. Standard movie cameras were placed at the ends of the array to pick up the normal speed action before and after.

Because the cameras circle the subject almost completely in most of the sequences, computer technology was used to edit out the cameras that appeared in the background on the other side. To create backgrounds, Gaeta hired George Borshukov, who created 3D models based on the geometry of buildings and used the photographs of the buildings themselves as texture.

The photo-realistic surroundings generated by this method were incorporated into the bullet time scene, and linear interpolation filled in any gaps of the still images to produce a fluent dynamic motion.

The computer-generated "lead in" and "lead out" slides were filled in between frames in sequence to get an illusion of orbiting the scene. Manex Visual Effects used a cluster farm running the Unix-like operating system FreeBSD to render many of the film's visual effects.
Manex also handled creature effects, such as Sentinels and machines in real world scenes; Animal Logic created the code hallway and the exploding Agent at the end of the film. DFilm managed scenes that required heavy use of digital compositing, such as Neo's jump off a skyscraper and the helicopter crash into a building.

The ripple effect in the latter scene was created digitally, but the shot also included practical elements, and months of extensive research were needed to find the correct kind of glass and explosives to use.

The scene was shot by colliding a quarter-scale helicopter mock-up into a glass wall wired to concentric rings of explosives; the explosives were then triggered in sequence from the center outward, to create a wave of exploding glass.

The photogrametric and image-based computer-generated background approaches in The Matrix's bullet time evolved into innovations unveiled in the sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

The method of using real photographs of buildings as texture for 3D models eventually led the visual effect team to digitize all data, such as scenes, characters' motions and expressions. It also led to the development of "Universal Capture", a process which samples and stores facial details and expressions at high resolution.

With these highly detailed collected data, the team were able to create virtual cinematography in which characters, locations, and events can all be created digitally and viewed through virtual cameras, eliminating the restrictions of real cameras.

Sound Effects and Music

Dane A. Davis was responsible for creating the sound effects for the film. The fight scenes sound effects, such as the whipping sounds of punches, came from using junk to create noises and capturing them, then editing the sounds. The sound of the pod containing a human baby closing required almost fifty sounds put together.

The film's score was composed by Don Davis. He noted that mirrors appear frequently in the film: reflections of the blue and red pills are seen in Morpheus's glasses; Neo's capture by Agents is viewed through the rear-view mirror of Trinity's Triumph Speed Triple motorcycle.

Neo observes a broken mirror mending itself; reflections warp as a spoon is bent; and the reflection of a helicopter is visible as it approaches a skyscraper. Davis focused on this theme of reflections when creating his score, alternating between sections of the orchestra and attempting to incorporate contrapuntal ideas.

Davis' score combines orchestral, choral and synthesizer elements; the balance between these elements varies depending on whether humans or machines are the dominant subject of a given scene.

In addition to Davis' score, The Matrix soundtrack also features music from acts such as Rammstein, Rob Dougan, Rage Against the Machine, Propellerheads, Ministry, Deftones, Monster Magnet, The Prodigy, Rob Zombie, Meat Beat Manifesto, and Marilyn Manson.


Detailed Synopsis and Screenshots

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In the Hovercraft, there is no morning; there is only darkness and then the fluorescent light sticks flicker on. Neo is awake in his bed, staring up at the lights. The door opens and Tank steps inside. He offers his hand and Neo shakes it. He notices that Tank doesn't have any jacks.

Tank explains that he and his brother Dozer, are 100 percent pure, old fashioned, home-grown human. Born free. Genuine child of Zion, the last human city, buried deep in the earth, near the core, for warmth. Neo starts his training. Tank is his operator. Neo is plugged in, hanging in one of the suspension chairs.

Tank plops into his operator's chair and decides to by-pass some preliminary programs and loads him up with combat training, starting with Jiu Jitsu. Tank slides the disk into Neo's supplement drive. Smiling, Tank punches the "load" code. His body jumps against the harness as his eyes clamp shut.

The monitors kick wildly as his heart pounds, adrenaline surges, and his brain sizzles. An instant later his eyes snap open. "I think he likes it," says Tank, "want some more?" "Hell yes," replies Neo. Neo is fed a series of martial arts techniques including Kempo, Tae Kwon Do, Drunken Boxing and Kung Fu.

Morpheus and Tank are amazed at Neo's ability to ingest information, but Morpheus wants to test Neo. Morpheus and Neo stand in a very sparse japanese-style dojo, a sparring program. The program has rules, like gravity. But as in many computer programs, some rules can be bent while others can be broken.

Morpheus assumes a fighting stance and bids Neo to hit him, if he can. Neo assumes a similar stance, cautiously circling until he gives a short cry and launches a furious attack. It is like a Jackie Chan movie at high speed, fists and feet striking from every angle as Neo presses his attack -- But each and every blow is blocked by effortless speed.

While their minds battle in the programmed reality, the two bodies appear quite serene, suspended in the drive chairs. Tank monitors their life systems noticing that Neo is wildly and chaotically lit up as opposed to the slow and steady rhythm of Morpheus.

In the Mess Hall, everyone is eating bowls of single-cell protein. It has a cottage cheese consistency. Mouse bursts in the room announcing that Morpheus is fighting Neo. All at once they bolt for the door. Everyone is gathered behind Tank, watching the fight, like watching a game of Mortal Combat.

In the Dojo, Neo's face is knotted, teeth clenched, as he hurls himself at Morpheus. Morpheus attacks him and it is like nothing we have seen. His feet and fists are everywhere taking Neo apart. For every blow Neo blocks, five more hit their marks until -- Neo falls. Panting, on his hands and knees, blood spits from his mouth speckling the floor of the Dojo.

Morpheus ends up kicking Neo into a beam, explaining to him that the reason he has beaten him has nothing to do with muscles or reality. Neo is frustrated, still unable to catch his breath, he stands, nodding. They spar again. Their fists fly with pneumatic speed. "What are you waiting for?" Morpheus asks him. "You're faster than this!" Neo finally brings a punch near his teacher's face.

Morpheus instructs Tank to load the jump program. Neo straightens as the dojo dissolves away like a curtain lifting, leaving the two men now standing on a building rooftop in a city skyline. A wind howls, whipping Morpheus' long coat to the side. Morpheus tells Neo he must free his mind, he spins, running hard at the edge of the rooftop. And jumps.

He sails through the air, his coat billowing out behind him like a cape -- Somersaults once and lands on the rooftop across the street. Neo looks down at the street twenty floors below, then at Morpheus an impossible fifty feet away. He takes a deep breath. He concentrates. Runs. In the Main Deck, the crew are transfixed. They argue over whether he can make it as Trinity stares at the screen, her fists clenching.

Summoning every ounce of strength in his legs, Neo launches himself into the air in a single maniacal shriek -- But comes up drastically short. His eyes widen as he plummets. Stories fly by, the ground rushing up at him, but as he hits -- The ground gives way, stretchinp like a trapeze net. He bounces and flips, slowly coming to a rest, flat on his back. Morpheus exits the building and helps him to his feet.

Neo's eyes open as Tank eases the plug out. He tries to move and groans, cradling his ribs. While Tank helps Morpheus, Neo spits blood into his hand. "I thought it wasn't real," he says. Neo stares at the blood. "Your mind makes it real," replies Morpheus. "So, if you die in the Matrix, you die here?" "The body cannot live without the mind," says Morpheus, underlining the very real danger faced in the simulation.

Later, Trinity enters from the hall, carrying a tray of food. She sees Neo passed out on the bed. She sets the tray down and pauses, her face close to his, then inhales lightly, breathing in the scent of him, before slowly pulling away. Outside his room, Cypher remarks that Trinity never brought him dinner. He asks Trinity why, if Morpheus thinks Neo is the One, he hasn't taken him to see the Oracle yet. Trinity says he'll take him when he's ready.

Morpheus and Neo are walking down a standard city street in what appears to be the Matrix. Morpheus explains that the Matrix is a system and that the system is their enemy. All the people that inhabit it, the people they are trying to free, are part of that system. Some are so inert, so dependent upon the Matrix that they can never be free. Neo notices a stunning girl in a red dress.

"Are you listening to me?" asks Morpheus. He asks Neo to look at the girl again. Neo turns to face Agent Smith, pointing a gun straight at his head. Morpheus stops the simulation, which has just been created to look like the Matrix. Neo asks what the Agents are. "Sentient programs," says Morpheus, that "can move in and out of any software hard-wired into their system, meaning that they can take over anyone in the Matrix program.

"Inside the Matrix," Morpheus says, "They are everyone and they are no one." Thus Morpheus and his crew survive the Agents by running from them and hiding from the Agents even though they "are guarding all the doors. They are holding all the keys and sooner or later, someone is going to have to fight them." But no one who has ever stood up to an Agent has survived; all have died.

Still, Morpheus is certain that because the Agents live in a world of rules that they can never be as strong, never be as fast as he can be. "What are you trying to tell me," asks Neo, "That I can dodge bullets?" "When you're ready," Morpheus says, "You won't have to." Just then Morpheus gets a phone call. "We've got trouble," Cypher says on the other line.

The Nebuchadnezzar is on alert. They see the holographic image of a squiddy, a search and destroy sentinel, which is on their trail. They set the ship down in a huge sewer system and turn off the power. Tank stands at the ready switch of an EMP, electro-magnetic pulse, the only weapon man has against the machines in the real world. Two squiddies search for the ship -- the crew can see them -- but they move on.

The ship is quiet and dark. Everyone is asleep. On the Main Deck, the core glows with monitor light. Cypher is in the operator's chair as Neo comes up behind him and startles Cypher. Neo's eyes light up as he steps closer to the screens that seem alive with a constant flow of data. The monitors are packed with bizarre codes and equations.

Cypher offers Neo a drink from a large jug and says that he knows what Neo is thinking, "Why, oh why didn't I take the blue pill?" Neo laughs but is unsettled. Cypher asks Neo if Morpheus has told him why he's here. Neo nods. "What a mind job," says Cypher, "so you're here to save the world."

We cut to a fancy restaurant and the ambiance of wealth soak the room as we watch a serrated knife saw through a thick, gorgeous steak. A fork stabs the cube of meat and we follow it up to the face of Cypher. He laughs, shoving the steak into his mouth. Sitting across from Cypher is Agent Smith. Agent Smith asks if they have a deal. Cypher chews the steak loudly, smacking it between his teeth.

Smith watches him shovel another hunk of meat into his mouth. Cypher ruminates that he knows the steak is merely the simulation telling his brain that it is delicious and juicy. Pausing, he examines the meat skewered on his fork. He pops it in, eyes rolling up, savoring the tender beef melting in his mouth. After nine years he has discovered that "ignorance is bliss."

Cypher takes a deep drink of wine. He strikes a deal for the machines to get his body back into a power plant, reinsert him into the Matrix, and he'll help the Agents. He wants to be rich and powerful, "an actor" maybe. Smith says he wants access codes to the mainframe in Zion. Cypher says he can't do that, but that he can get him the man who does, meaning Morpheus.

Meanwhile, inside the Nebuchadnezzar's small dining room in the real world, the rest of the crew is trying to choke down the oatmeal-gruel that they have as sustenance. Mouse muses on the mistakes the machines may have made trying to get sensations right, like the taste of chicken. Since they didn't know what it tasted like they let everything taste like it. Morpheus interrupts the meal, announcing that he's taking Neo to see the Oracle.

Morpheus, Trinity, Neo, Apoc, Switch, Mouse and Cypher are jacked into the Matrix. Tank looks down at the monitor teeming with Matrix data that seems to coalesce, equations giving way to images of - - The hotel room, empty, heavy curtains covering windows. It looks as if it hasn't been touched in years. In the room, an old black phone begins to ring. Morpheus answers the phone and announces to the rest, "we're in." He hangs up.

Neo follows the others through the hotel delivery exit. As Cypher passes a garbage can, he surreptitiously drops something inside. It is a cellular phone and we watch the display as the line connects. An early 1970s, black Lincoln Continental emerges from a corrugated roll-up garage. On the car ride to the Oracle, Neo squints into the sun that seems unnaturally bright. He is the only one without sunglasses.

Neo asks Trinity if she has seen the Oracle. Trinity says that she has but when she's asked just what she was told by the Oracle, she refuses to answer. The Oracle, Morpheus explains, has been with them since the beginning of the Resistance. She is the one who made the Prophecy of the One and that Morpheus would be the one to find him. She can help Neo find the path, he says.

They enter a building and enter an elevator. Neo and Morpheus enter the apartment of the Oracle. Morpheus hangs back while a lady guides him to another room and to tells him wait there. The Room of Potentials: Neo enters and finally understands the attention given to his age. The Potentials are all little children.

The room feels at once like a Buddhist temple and a kindergarten class. The children's heads are either shaved or thick with dreadlocks. Some are playing, others meditating or practicing their gift. Neo watches a little girl levitate wooden alphabet blocks.

One bald child holds a spoon which sways like a blade of grass as he bends it with his mind. Neo crosses to him, sits. Neo tries to bend the spoon with his mind, but despite his best efforts, Neo cannot make it bend. The child says, "Do not try and bend the spoon, that's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth...that there is no spoon." Neo nods, again holding up his spoon. He concentrates. The spoon begins to bend just as he's called in to see the Oracle.

Neo enters nervously. The Oracle's Chamber looks like a suburban tract house. There is cozy furniture, knick-knacks and ceramic brick-a-brack. A woman is huddled beside the oven, peering inside through the cracked door. She tells him to not worry about the vase. He turns to look around and his elbow knocks a vase from the table. It breaks against the linoleum floor.

She pulls out a tray of chocolate chip cookies and turns. She is an older woman, wearing big oven mitts, she looks like someone's grandma. Smiling, she lights a cigarette. She sizes Neo up and asks him whether he thinks he is the One. Neo admits that he does not know and the Oracle does not enlighten him. She gestures to a wooden plaque, the kind every grandma has, except that the words are in Latin. Means, 'Know thyself.'

She puts her cigarette down, checks him over and tells him he's got the gift but he's not the One. Neo smiles and the Oracle asks him what is funny. Neo admits that Morpheus had almost convinced him that he was the One. She accepts this and prophesies that Morpheus believes in Neo so much that he plans to sacrifice himself.

She tells Neo that either he or Morpheus will die, and that Neo will have the power to choose which one it will be. She then offers him a cookie and promises him that he will feel fine as soon as he's done eating it. Morpheus is waiting for him as they exit the apartment. He tells Neo that whatever the Oracle told him is for him only.

The crew returns to their jack point. The Continental pulls up at the hotel delivery. As they pour out of the car, Cypher nervously mops the sweat from his forehead. In the hovercraft, we see the sweat rolling down Cypher's face and neck. Tank is typing rapidly at the keyboard. many floors up in an old hotel, Tank, in the control room, notices something odd. Tank phones Mouse to let him know they are on their way.

The phone flips shut as Mouse jumps up. Light filters down the throat of the building as the figures glide up the dark stairs. Neo notices a black cat, a yellow-green-eyed shadow that slinks past them and pads quickly down the stairs. A moment later, Neo sees another black cat that looks and moves identically to the first one. "Deja vu," Neo remarks. Those words stop the others dead in their tracks.

On the Main Deck, Tank notices the monitors suddenly glitch as though the Matrix had an electronic seizure. Trinity turns around, her face tight, asking what he saw. When he tells her, she explains a deja vu is usually a glitch in the Matrix. It happens when they change something. Trinity looks at Morpheus, who listens quietly to the rasping breath of the old building. On the Main Deck, Tank sees what was changed.

It's a trap! Tank phones Mouse to warns him they cut the hard line, he needs to get out, it's a trap. Mouse runs to the draped window and yanks open the curtain. The windows are bricked up. Mouse picks up two machine guns just as the door explodes open. The police force pours in, dozens of assault rifles. Tank watches helplessly.

Morpheus stops as the scream is drowned by the report of machine guns filling the building with a terrible fury. On the Main Deck, Mouse's body thrashes against its harness. In the room, Mouse is riddled with bullets, gun smoke thickens the room. On the Main Deck, the real Mouse spurts blood from his mouth, his body spasming, then lying perfectly still.

In the Hotel, more police cars arrive as cops break open the lobby doors. Flying downstairs, Morpheus stops, hearing the police swarming below. He turns and rushes down the hall. At the end of it, he finds the bricked-up windows. The sound of heavy boot-steps close around them with the mechanical sureness of a vice.

Their call can be traced, but Morpheus decides they have no choice, he calls Tank and instructs him to find a structural drawing of this building and find it fast. His fingers pound the keyboard. Flashlights probe the rotting darkness as the police search every floor. On the Main Deck, the diagram windows onto the screen. Agent Smith pauses, his hand going to his earpiece.

Morpheus is guided by Tank and then he cuts off the phone. Agent Smith hears the line click dead. Several cops sweep through the room. It is empty. As they pass the bathroom, we see a man-sized hole smashed through the plaster and lathe. They are inside the main plumbing wall, slowly worming their way down the greasy, black stack pipes. Above them, light fills the hole they made to get inside.

The Agents arrive on the floor they're on, finding a coat that Cypher has left behind. As the police approach Cypher sneezes, once more giving them away. The police open fire. Bullets punching shafts of light like swords into the box of soot-black space. The crew, including Neo, begin to fire back. An Agent takes over the body of one of the policemen, reaches into the wall, and grabs Neo by the neck.

Morpheus, who is above Neo in the walls, breaks through the wall and lands on the agent, yelling to Trinity to get Neo out of the building. A fierce battle between Agent Smith and Morpheus ends with Morpheus face down on the tile. Agent Smith sends the police unit in to beat him with their batons. Cypher returns to the Nebuchadnezzar before Trinity, Neo, Switch and Apoc.

As Tank attempts to bring the others back, Cypher attacks him from behind with an electronic weapon. Dozer attempts to tackle Cypher, but Cypher electrocutes him as well. Trinity attempts to call Tank but Cypher pulls the headset off of the smoking remains of Tank and answers. He walks over to Trinity's body, staring down at it hanging in its coma-like stillness.

Cypher recounts the things he hates about the real world, the war, the cold, the goop they have to eat, but most especially Morpheus and his beliefs. "He lied to us, Trinity." Cypher grabs hold of the cable in Apoc's head, twists it and yanks it out. Apoc seems to go blind for an instant, a scream caught in his throat, his hands reaching for nothing, and then falls dead.

Cypher then moves to Switch and he takes hold of her plug. She protests "Not like this...". She suddenly feels her body severed from her mind as she is murdered. Cypher moves on to Neo's supine form, saying that if Neo is the One, a miracle will prevent Cypher from killing him: "How can he be the One, if he's dead?" he asks.

He continues badgering Trinity, asking her if she believes that Neo is the One. She says, "Yes." Cypher screams back "No!" but his reaction is incredulity at seeing Tank still alive, brandishing the weapon that Cypher had used on him. Tank fries Cypher with the electrical device. Tank brings Trinity back and she finds out that Dozer is dead.

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