John Gaeta shot to fame with the release of the Warner Bros. blockbuster The Matrix in 1999. A great leap forward in visual effects technology, The Matrix, a sci-fi action thriller written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, won four Academy Awards, including an Oscar® for Mr. Gaeta, the film's visual effects supervisor.
The Matrix began the saga of Thomas "Neo" Anderson, played by Keanu Reeves, a corporate employee by day and secret hacker by night. In his quest to track down the enigmatic Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne, he is shown the true nature of reality and of human enslavement in virtual reality. The visual tour de force continues in The Matrix Reloaded, released in May, which grossed more than $250 million in the U.S. by its fifth week, and this November in the upcoming release of The Matrix Revolutions.
For The Matrix, Mr. Gaeta developed "bullet time," a technique for depicting action inside the virtual reality of the Matrix, through a digital creative process called "virtual cinematography." The visual effects work for Reloadedand Revolutions began at ESC (pronounced "Escape"), the visual effects division, in March 2000. However, the technology needed to realize the Wachowski's vision for the action sequences didn't exist. Mr. Gaeta and his team created virtual, three-dimensional depictions of the main characters to bring impossible superhuman feats to a new level of realism, by using "mocap" ("motion capture") with sophisticated cameras recording precise motion data from reflective bodysuits worn by the actors.
Another innovation, called "u-cap" for "universal capture," was used to layer lifelike expressions onto the computer-generated cast, by using five high-resolution cameras in a semicircle around each actor's face to record the performance in exceptionally fine detail.
Virtual cinematography opened up tremendous possibilities in camera composition and editing, which resulted in what has been named "virtual cinema" by the visual effects group. And to manage all of the intricate processes and details of creating virtual cinema from concept to screen, Mr. Gaeta's team designed the "Zion Mainframe," the most functional information and asset exchange engine ever created for a feature film.
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