The premise of The Matrix Reloaded seems straightforward enough.
Having discovered the location of Zion, the city of free humans,
the Machines have dispatched thousands of Sentinels to destroy it.
Meanwhile, Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus
(Laurence Fishburne) are racing against time while battling Agents
and a host of new villains to get the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim),
a man with access to all the doors into the Machine world, safely
out of the Matrix.
Bringing the dystopian
vision of directors Larry and Andy Wachowski to the screen was
an immense logistical and
however, even by the standards set on the first film. "The
Matrix seems like child's play compared to how busy and complicated
is," confirms director of photography Bill Pope, ASC. Featuring
approximately 70 sets and 1,227 visual-effects shots (compared
to The Matrix's 200), Reloaded took up all available space and
at Sydney's Fox Studios. Jokes Pope, "I've had several friends
come into town to shoot commercials, and they've rung me up and
said, "We were going to invite you out to dinner, but we're not
you've taken all the gear and crew."
Pope felt it was important
to maintain the visual aesthetics that he and the Wachowskis had
established on The Matrix. "Neo's
story of the fight for survival of the human race against the machines
was always conceived of as a trilogy," he explains. "The
hope is that one day the three films will be cut into one huge
movie, so each film has to tie in visually with the others. In
the Matrix itself has strong, recognizable visual themes and motifs.
So while Neo, Trinity and Morpheus do indeed go to many more places
within the Matrix [in the latter two films], the basic look needs
to stay the same. It would be both confusing and detrimental to
the story to have visual variation within that computer-generated
universe, as it would within the real world."
Check Your Weapons
Whereas a striking feature of The Matrix was the use of 300-fps slow-motion
shots, the filmmakers opted for a broader range of speeds on Reloaded,
both under- and overcranking the camera. Pope explains, "While
we did do some 300-fps shots, most of the high-speed sets were
lit for 120 to 150 fps. We also worked in the 70- to 90-fps range,
and undercranked speeds such as 21 fps and 23 fps, to speed certain
actions up just a touch. I generally like to work at T2.8, but
that was an impractical stop for this movie, most of which was
shot at T4. For the high-speed photography, we had to achieve stops
of T16 and T22."
As he had on The Matrix,
Pope favored Kino Flos when lighting the actors. The fluorescent
sources "put out a negligible amount
of heat and provide a great sheen on bald heads and the exotic leathers
the actors are wearing," he explains. "To avoid green skin
tones, I didn't gel the lamps, because so much of the light bounces
off the clothing and sets that you don't really have to add green
to the lamps. I did use some green gels every now and then when we
got closer to the heart of the Matrix, but it was just the slightest
amount, like 1Ú8 Plus Green."
One complex sequence
in-volves a virtual French chateau, the foyer of which is all but
waste as Neo battles Agent Smith (Hugo
Weaving) and other villains. Lighting this scene presented several
logistical complications. "We established that this opulent
chateau had sunlight coming through large windows at the back of
the foyer, as well as through some smaller windows set into a dome
in the ceiling," says Pope. To replicate the sunlight coming
through the rear windows, Australian gaffer Reg Garside built two
large lamps based on Dinos, which each held 72 Par cans. These lights
were hoisted into the roof via a system of pulleys that allowed them
to travel and be panned and tilted to the desired degree, depending
on the shooting stop, which was often T16 for the high-speed photography.
To light through the windows set into the dome without revealing
the lights themselves, Garside placed a white cyc behind the windows
and built an elaborate system of greenbeds with motorized platforms. "The
interior was lit with large softboxes that had to be built above,
around and through the middle of the wire-harness rigs, which made
life interesting," Garside cracks.
To the Center of the Earth
Although much of Reloaded is set within the weird and wonderful environs
of the Matrix, the heart of the story concerns the city of Zion. "In
The Matrix, we find out that Zion is a free city near the center
of the earth, which is where the people on the Nebuchadnezzar come
from," says Pope. "In Reloaded, we go to Zion." Production
designer Owen Paterson describes the central habitat section of
Zion as "a huge, 7,000-foot-deep cylinder with floors that
are about 6 meters apart. On every floor, there are houses running
the perimeter of the cylinder. Down the center is an elevator that's
connected by walkways attached to the walls every 43 meters. It's
a huge space - in theory enough room for 250,000 people to exist
- all serviced and maintained by the engineering level."
points out that "the people of Zion do the best they
can to recreate the world that doesn't exist any more, so they
in artificial sunlight, as though they've managed to banish evil
from the center of the world." To achieve this effect, Pope
established an overall ambience with space lights, and then used "checkerboarded" Dinos
and Dinettes (mixing spot and medium bulbs) mounted on Condors to
provide atmospheric shafts of light. "The checkerboard provides
a hot area with a nice gradation at the edges - the light doesn't
just stop dead," notes Garside. One poignant scene in Reloaded
required the transformation of the artificially created day into
night. Pope describes this as "one giant cross-fade that takes
place over about 10 seconds. However, it wasn't quite that simple.
The scale of the sets, as well as the limited space in which we had
to work, made it a logistical challenge."
area in which hoverships like the Nebuchadnezzar dock, Pope again
established a bright ambience. "Conceptually, the bright,
sunlit feel is provided by a huge shaft of light bouncing off the
oval roof. This shaft comes from the center core of the loading dock,
a raised part of the building that the main lift shafts rise up to." Although
the shaft itself is a visual effect, the bounce light on set was
provided by thousands of Par cans pushed through large panels of
custom-made light grid diffusion.