Physics of Animation, A. Garcia
Animatrix: Final Flight of the Osiris
"Final Flight of the Osiris" is one of nine animated shorts from the “Animatrix.” It is a CG, Computer Generated, animation containing scenes that manipulate physical laws. The ship, Osiris, is under attack and Jue, the female lead, must enter the Matrix to deliver a letter before the ship is destroyed. The scene in analysis is of Jue jumping off a roof and doing many acrobatic tricks before she lands on the street. Unfortunately, many details were left unnoticed in the animation and manipulation of gravity. For instance, the path of action of falls, momentum and reactions from landings were not being accounted for, and the timing of a fall was completely incorrect. Jue can manipulate the laws of physics while in the Matrix, yet there are many inconguencies in how the artificial environment reacts to her and how she responds to it.
The Matrix is a world generated by computer programs. Robots that were created to help people eventually dominated the earth and gained control over the human race. The machines captured all the humans, gained control of their entire physical being, and created the Matrix so their minds would be occupied by a world they assumed was real. Few humans managed to escape the clutches of the machines, and were able to tap into the Matrix in their attempt to fight against the machines. While in the Matrix, those humans can defy real world physical boundaries because they know they are in a computer program, not reality.
Jue is one of the humans that have this mental power over the Matrix. Therefore she can program herself to have super strength, which makes her appear indestructible. In the “Flight of the Osiris,” Jue is the lead character that performs powerful acrobatic stunts while jumping off a roof to get to a mailbox. When Jue finally lands on the ground, giant shock waves are sent through the earth’s surface in a rippling effect and Jue remains unharmed. Because Jue can send a shockwave through cement by landing on, we can assume she is made of a dense mass like steel and cannot break. Therefore she should have the same intense reaction everywhere she lands because her momentum is higher. However, at the very beginning of the scene Jue jumps out of a window and lands on a roof, but there are no shock waves present. If Jue had landed on the roof with the same momentum as her final landing, then the roof would also have shock waved and possibly collapsed on her. These two landings simply do not match up and therefore the audience is unsure of what abnormal powers Jue has in the Matrix. Obviously she has heightened strength and athletic ability, but none of those powers would give her the kind of mass that would cause a shockwave wherever she lands.
The animators did not consider the right reaction, due to her heightened momentum, of her first landing on the roof. Therefore, lets assume that she has the normal mass of a woman her size. If Jue were to jump out of a window and land on a roof, her reaction impulse would be higher on her because the force of the roof is larger than her own. For example, if one were to throw an egg against a wall, the egg would smash and the wall would stay the same, just be dirtier. Jue is the egg in this example, and although parts of her are dense enough to not shatter, she would at least have some broken appendages. But of course, the animators of Flights of the Osiris must manipulate physics in order to keep the viewer believing that Jue has super strength. However adding a simple crack or shatter on the roof when Jue lands on it, would only add to the story by further suggesting Jue’s abnormal strength.
The animators not only manipulated reactions in the Matrix environment, they bent the rules of timing as well. The correct timing for an object to fall is to start slower after leaving the apex, then gradually gets faster overtime. When Jue jumps off the first roof she landed on, the apex of the jump is slow, but afterwards she propels like a rocket with even timing. Timing for falls was not invented for animation, but actually follows the laws of gravity based on video evidence. Given the perspective of the fall, an angled up shot from the viewers point of view, I can see why getting the timing correct would be confusing for an animator. But because of this mistake, Jue appears to have more powers in the Matrix than even the director realizes, like propelling her speed in mid-air. If she did have that power, then that would mean she could defy gravity and fly.
Another detail that the director left out in that same fall is the momentum of Jue’s landing on the balcony railing. This ties back to the incongruency of her landing on the roof compared to her landing on the ground. If Jue were the dense super human that she appears to be, then once she lands on the railing the balcony would either shake or break off the building. This shows that once again, the animators/director did not consider momentum and reaction caused by force. The only place the director put a reaction of Jue’s force on the environment is in her final landing. However, if Jue were to destroy or hinder everything she landed on, then she wouldn’t be able to pull off the strong, confident, acrobatic moves that happen in that scene.
The director and animators do take into account what kind of setting Jue needs to pull off acrobatic stunts and impressive dives. They placed her in an environment filled with sturdy metal beams and pipes. That way, Jue would not have to worry about destroying everything she landed on because of her high momentum. Through out this entire scene of Jue swinging her way through a jungle of pipes and beam, there are many instances where gravity is defied.
If the director did not break some physical laws, than a flip, jump, or landing would not look as interesting. The untrained eye is might not decipher which moves completely break the laws of physics, because of the many intricate dives, tumbles, and extreme camera angels, editing cuts, and convincing sound effects. All these details add to the story telling effect of the scene because it amplifies every jump and flight through the air. She conveniently dodges pipes and rails while flipping in the air and also uses them as her acrobatic poles to grab and swing off of.
However, many of the fancy camera angles and tumbling tricks did not disguise the fact that they exaggerated many lifts, jumps and landings. For instance, when she lands on her hands before making that final jump to the ground, it is physically impossible for her hands to support her weight given her center of gravity and the distance of the fall. Jue’s hips are her center of gravity, so if she were to land hands first onto the railing, than the rotation of her body from the fall would have propelled her off the balancing beam. Since Jue was diving straight down into the railing, it might be possible to land there in a balanced position, but her wrists would have broken and her head would have been pulverized. Good thing Jue can manipulate her strengths while in the Matrix, because then she can make her arms have more mass and power than her legs to be able to balance in a headstand-land. What is successful about this stunt is that it confirms to the audience that she can survive a big fall because of her abnormal powers in the Matrix. Therefore it sets up the final fall where she practically dives to the ground, shatters the earth, and gets up unharmed.
People like Jue can bend the laws of physics while in the Matrix because they know it is not reality. However, they cannot control how the Matrix reacts to them. Therefore, much incongruency can be found in the actions of the environment around Jue. This proved that the animators did not consider those details while making the scene. It is important to remember including cause and effect while animating because it adds character to a scene. The audience may not always notice those tiny details at first glance, but it creates a realistic feeling that is usually only noticed by the subconscious. Unfortunately, if all the correct reaction details, such as the roof collapsing and the balcony railing breaking or shaking, were added to the scene, it would have taken away from the story. That is why anything is possible in animation because if it is entertaining and tells a good story, the movie is successful.