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Beyond Bullet Time & The Burley Brawl
The visual effects process for The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions began in March 2000 at the production's in-house visual effects division, ESC (pronounced "Escape"), where John Gaeta, visual effects supervisor of the Matrix trilogy, has supervised the creation of over 1,300 virtual effects shots for Reloaded and approximately 800 more for Revolutions – dwarfing in size and scope the 412 VFX shots created for The Matrix.

Gaeta's primary innovation for The Matrix has come to be known as "Bullet Time," a revolutionary technique for depicting cinematic action in the style of Japanese animation known as animé. Bullet Time refers to a conceptual state of being inside the virtual reality of the Matrix, in which a character – primarily Neo – obtains a "mind-over-Matrix" capability. The creative process for bringing Bullet Time to the screen is called "virtual cinematography," a digital solution developed by Gaeta and the Matrix filmmakers to depict these "mind-over-Matrix" moments in slow-motion, as seen by a camera moving at regular speed. The result allowed Gaeta's team to manipulate imagery at any given speed without losing clarity.

But this initial version of virtual cinematography was deemed inadequate – "almost arcane," as Gaeta sees it – for rendering the super-human events the Wachowski Brothers envisioned for Reloaded and the epic action they designed for Revolutions. Not only did Gaeta have to find a way to ignite Reloaded's scorching fourteen minute freeway chase, render Neo's "Burly Brawl" battle against 100 Agent Smiths and depict Neo flying at 2000 miles per hour over the sprawling Matrix megacity, but the Wachowskis' ambitious Revolutions script called for a spectacular cascade of marauding creatures, mammoth robots controlled by men and virtual destruction that powers "the Siege," the apocalyptic battle in which the rebels mount an aggressive defense of Zion against the Machines' relentless army of Sentinels and Diggers. Gaeta also needed to bring to life the sinister Machine City, its "bio-mechanical" inhabitants and the ultimate confrontation between Neo and Agent Smith known as the "Super Burly Brawl."

"It was evident that we couldn't go any further by utilizing the technology from the first Bullet Time shots," says Gaeta, who won an Academy Award for Visual Effects for The Matrix. "It was too restrictive and too labor intensive. The concept of Bullet Time needed to graduate to the true technology it suggested."

In other words, realizing Reloaded and Revolutions' visionary action sequences required technology that didn't exist yet. Familiar territory for Gaeta and the Wachowskis, but this time around, the filmmakers took their ambitious plan to advance virtual cinematography exponentially further than one can imagine. "They decided to create images that no one could copy," says producer Joel Silver. "That takes a lot of time, a lot of money and a lot of talent. And the results are staggering. These guys didn't just raise the bar for action filmmaking, for visionary storytelling, for what is visually possible – they obliterated it."

The centerpiece of Gaeta and Company's answer to the first phase of virtual cinematography is their creation of virtual, three-dimensional depictions of the main characters for the purpose of enacting their impossible super-human

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