Resurrections: Quintessential VFX
Karen Moltenbrey
February 18, 2022

Resurrections: Quintessential VFX

Some of the visual effects in The Matrix Resurrections are unique, and some are what one would call “quintessential  Matrix.” A lot of the work by One of Us falls into the latter category.
One of Us, led by VFX Supervisor Tyson Donnelly and supported by Emmanuel Pichereau (DFX supervisor), Adam Azmy (compositing supervisor), Ola Hamletsen (CG supervisor), and Harry Landymore (VFX associate producer), crafted 213 VFX shots that brought the audience back to the tangled web of the Matrix. Their work includes the time-split in Trinity’s workshop, the red pill effects, and the shoot-out when Morpheus is introduced.

As Hamletsen points out, the director, Lana Wachowski, wanted to draw on Matrix nostalgia, referencing visual effects from the original film while weaving them into new context.

The warehouse sequence at Trinity's workshop involved the greater part of the studio’s work on Resurrections. It is a long and pivotal scene comprising 126 shots, with Neo, Trinity, and the Analyst — who can control time and make one person move in slow motion while he continues to move at whatever speed he wants.

As the sequence progresses, a bullet is shot and, in slow motion, is destined for Tiffany’s (Trinity’s) head. Neo is slowly trying to reach out to stop it and save her, while the Analyst can control time and move faster. He places an apple in the bullet’s path, which smashes into pieces as the bullet pierces it — referencing both Matrix bullet time and Harold Edgerton’s famous photograph. Early plans were to shoot this sequence underwater, to make the slow motion more effortful and dream-like, says Tom Debenham, One of Us director and production-side additional VFX supervisor. 

“Practical considerations won out, though, and the decision was made to shoot Neo, Trinity, and the Analyst in the same set… but at different frame rates,” he adds.

Nevertheless, putting together different plates at different time shots was a complicated process, according to Donnelly. The studio filmed with an old-school technique, with two cameras aligned in a stereo rig. One was filming in slow motion, and the other was filming at a faster frame rate. Many others were shot using one camera each time with different elements at different speeds.

“One shot that I personally worked on with Adam Azmy was when Tiffany’s head crumbles into code. It is the opening shot of the warehouse sequence, and it took One of Us around six months and dozens of versions,” says Hamletsen. 

Some of the hardest work, though, is also the least visible. As Hamletsen points out, Neo is suspended on wires and he is running in slow motion, but his coat and his hair are not actually moving, they are just hanging straight down, breaking the illusion that he is running. As a result, One of Us replaced his coat and did a full-CG hair replacement to make his hair and his coat tell the story.

Red Pill Effects
Of course, reality takes a sudden turn in the Matrix world when the red pill is introduced. In this latest film, it once again opened Neo’s eyes to what is real and what is virtual. It also has an effect when the new Morpheus takes it. One of us created VFX to show the effects of that taking the pill had in two particular scenes. 

“The first happens just after Bugs gives Morpheus the pill and it looks like something from the first Matrix, but we called it the ‘backdoor hallway.’ It is basically this white space with multiple doors, and Morpheus and Bugs step out of this room and there is distortion from some kaleidoscopic imagery,” Debenham explains. In another sequence, the pair are being chased down a street, and they go through a trapdoor into a world that's upside down, and then they come out from the corridor and back into the street.

“We used the multi-camera technique on both sequences — you pick the angle you want to create this sort of blurry effect, and then we used various comp techniques and tricks on top of that,” Landymore explains. “The very tricky stuff in the sequence was the wall moving out. We had to model the entire hallway — from a real hallway — and then lay it out on the top and start making things move around and break. We started giving it a crazy and exaggerated look, but it was too much; we had to make sure that the effect wasn't overdone. We also introduced the little lines of the Matrix code behind the walls. The director was very interested in having them hidden and not overly obvious. You want the spectator to wonder, “Is that what I saw?’”

For most of the CG work, One of Us used SideFX’s Houdini, Foundry’s Nuke, and Autodesk’s Maya.