Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Ever wondered where did The Matrix’s iconic code come from?


Have you ever wondered where The Matrix‘s now-famous “digital rain”, an image of green characters cascading down a black screen, came from?

The answer is way more fascinating than any of the movie’s mysteries. The code is, in fact, a bunch of sushi recipes.

Simon Whiteley, a production designer at Animal Logic in Australia, is known as the man behind the code.

Explaining how he ended up working on the digital rain after a previous sequence that a design team working on the movie had created was vetoed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, Whiteley said, “The Wachowskis  didn’t feel like the design was old-fashioned and traditional enough.”

“They wanted something that was more Japanese, more manga,” he added.

“They asked me if I would like to have a go working at the code, mainly because my wife is Japanese and she could help me work out the characters and give me insight into which characters were good and which were not.”

Whiteley started flipping through the stacks of Japanese cookbooks his wife owned, looking for inspiration. One recipe book in particular piqued his interest and the recipes served as the basis for what would ultimately become the movie’s iconic code.

Whiteley meticulously designed and painted each Japanese letter by hand. Justen Marshal, now an R&D supervisor at Animal Logic, digitised them and wrote the code to make them cascade across the screen.

Whiteley said the letters were supposed to flow across the screen from left to right but when he saw the animation it was not stirring any emotion for me.

Like most Japanese texts, the recipe books are “back to front” and sentences are read top to bottom. So, the code was flipped so it flowed down from the top of the screen.

While the movie is “very machine oriented”, Whiteley said the code is extracted from something so organic and free-flowing.

Whiteley has worked on the visual effects for blockbusters such as The Lego Ninjago Movie and Peter Rabbit.

He said he was surprised people find The Matrix title sequence so interesting all these years later. “The Matrix code was relatively simple to create,” he reminisced.

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