This was the 20th (second last) scene we filmed.
We did a ton of testing to see how we could best make the agent float through the
air for this one.
Our first attempt was filming the scene with the camera looking down on the table.
The minifigs were animated with a printed matte of the background beneath them. had
You can see from the test shots below that this was not a success. We thought it a
chance of working because of the success of the matte background in scene 20.
The second attempt was mounting the agent onto a large sheet of perspex. It sounded
like a good idea until we actually tried to take a photo of it and saw all the
reflections of the set clearly visible in the perspex.
Next was with the agent suspended on nylon thread, like we used in scene 10 with the
guns. Trevor still gets nightmares with those wobbling minifigs. They are just too
hard to control and animate.
Next we tried mounting the agent on rods of various thickness. By keeping the agent
in line with them and the camera, he obscures their presence. The rods we used were
old printer head guide rods. The thicker rod turned out to be better, as when you
roll it over to rotate him he also rolls sideways along - exactly the movement we
The problem with rods is when they aren't directly end on to the camera. They quickly
become really visible, and we suffered from this in our footage. Our solution was to
build a Technic Lego geared rig that could move the agent laterally and rotate him
at the same time. The rod was replaced with a couple of Lego axles and attached firmly
to the agent with wire and hidden with Black-Tack.
The shadows of the characters in this scene are really harsh and defined and are coming
towards the camera. This caused a lot of problems with the light we needed shining into
the camera lens. We put a lot of effort into trying to get the shadow from Trinity's
legs to match in Lego, but the Lego minifig doesn't have a lot of space between the legs.
We used a spot light from one of those lamps you can wear on your head to try to get the
shadow. In the end it wasn't great.
The muzzle flash from Trinity's gun looks weird in the original Matrix footage. It looks
like a little bird, and we made a paper shape to match.
We messed around with a lot of ways to backlight the agent for his transformation back
into the helicopter pilot after he's shot, but nothing was really any good. In the end
we just decided to cut it early and fade to black, since the transformation of the agent
isn't really part of this scene storyline if viewed alone.
On the right we have a slightly improved cropped version. This is still pretty poor.
This was our first matte test shot. I think I can safely say it would be an
understatement to say this was rubbish. Oh how we laughed.
It's like Trinity has sprung an oil leak or something. In our defence, we spent
almost no time in producing that backdrop as we just wanted to try it and see
if it was even close to working.
Having said that, we made a slightly better backdrop for the next photo you see
here, so we obviously thought it had a non-zero chance of working.
Here we have a slightly improved cropped version. This is still pretty poor,
but I don't need to tell you that.
Mind you, try squinting at it and it gets pretty darn good. Perhaps it would have
worked okay if our target market were in old folk's homes or something?
Cataracts probably increase the quality a hundred-fold.
This was our perspex test shot. It looked promising, but ultimately failed.
It also features our early helicopter design. We later changed the tail rotor and
added an extra bit to the top of the main rotor to better match the real thing.
We also made the decision to disconnect the main rotor slightly and lean it over.
The blades in the original movie footage droop a lot, and we wanted to get closer
Anyway, you can see a reflection of Trinity's head in the perspex, as well as the
ground, so just imagine what it would have been like to film.
Our nylon thread rig. The movement was supposed to be animated via the Bionical
arm at the top, which was clamped to the chair with the red towel on it. The
paper was used to jam it in place. It was just too wobbly to work.
I defy you, however, to spot the thread in this shot.
The black rectangle at the top right was a cut-down VHS tape cover we used as
a shield on the light. This scene had some pretty specific lighting requirements,
and it was tricky to do it and keep the light from shining directly into the lens,
flaring it out.
Here is our attempt with using a thin rod to mount the agent to. It's thinner
and so easier to obscure with clever camera angles, but was too hard to control.
The rod would slide about a bit over the Lego studs and not stay where we wanted
The light in the bottom right was being used to test the "agent dying and turning
back into a normal dead citizen" glow. It was just too hard to halo light the agent
with it so we gave up after a few short tests. Most people probably didn't even
notice that it happens in the film anyway.
This image shows the thick rod we tried. This was wrapped with rubber bands
and Blu-Tack, which gave it grip and stickiness on the Lego surface.
Unfortunately it seemed to have a mind of it's own and often settled into a
position it preferred, rather than the one we wanted. Very annoying to set
up the agent how you want him and have him slowly drift into another position
as the rod reasserted itself.
At this point our stuff appears to be sitting on top of a Little Mermaid play
set, but I could be wrong.
The agent is also getting a right snoot-full of gun, by the looks.
Here you can see the Lego axle rod. The Technic gearing rig is obscured by
the helicopter, unfortunately.
It was essentially a very small frame that allowed the mount to slide across
it. You twiddled something that turned some worm gears and the rod rotated
and moved along. Very nifty.
This is very much a shot of our final design, with the lighting and everything
in place. It was devilishly hard to get the lighting to match the original,
and this was about as close as we could get.
And finally we have some close-ups on the mounting of the agent to the axle rod. As you can
see there is some wire wrapped around his waist, which is then attached to the axle. A spot
of Black-Tack covers it up and no-one's any the wiser.