Rezmason/matrix: matrix (web-based green code rain, made with love)

Date: unknown

Location: github.com

TL;DR


about

This project is a web implementation of the raining green code seen in the Matrix franchise. It's built right on top of the upcoming graphics API WebGPU, but falls back to the functional WebGL wrapper, REGL; its previous Three.js version is maintained in a separate branch.


goals

The way I see it, there's four kinds of Matrix effects people call "digital rain":

  1. The green symbols that "rain down" operators' screens endlessly
  2. Scenes from within the simulation that depict green symbols streaking across everything
  3. The films' opening title graphics, which dazzle viewers and then draw them into the world of the franchise
  4. The "dialing" visualization at the opening of The Matrix and Resurrections

A fan project can attempt to tackle any of these. However, this project focuses specifically on #1 and #3— an endless effect, visually stunning and mystifying, that feels right at home on any screen.

The following criteria guided the development process:

  • Get the right glyphs. Like the actual ones. By now everyone's heard how the Matrix glyphs are some treatment of katakana, but they also include a few characters from Susan Kare's Chicago typeface. The Matrix glyphs in this project come from the source: cleaned up vectors from an old SWF for an official Matrix product, archived back in 2007. That's how deep this rabbit hole goes, friends. (Please support the Internet Archive!)
  • Get the new glyphs. When Resurrections hit theaters in December '21, it debuted an expanded glyph set with a daunting 135 symbols. Virtually all of them were recovered from the movie trailers for this project and uploaded before the film's release! ...But they were of relatively poor quality. Fortunately, in this age of 720p reference material and tie-in marketing, a decent sized sample of new glyphs were eventually reverse-engineered from a sparkly watch ad, and the rest were lovingly synthesized from frames of a behind-the-scenes VFX video.
  • Make it look sweet in 2D. The most versatile, recognizable and mesmerizing manifestation of the code rain is when it seems to pour right down your screen like rain on a windowpane. While depth effects are cool, they can obscure the details that make the difference between a goodtrix and a greatrix.
  • Make it look sweet in 3D, too. To facilitate future support of stereoscopic and holographic displays, it made sense to nail down a 3D variation, but it looks pretty on any kind of display.
  • The 2D glyphs are in a fixed grid and don't move. The "raindrops" we see in the effect are simply waves of illumination of stationary symbols that occupy a column. To get a better look at this, try setting the fallSpeed to a number close to 0.
  • Get the glow and color right. Matrix symbols aren't just some shade of phosphorous green; they're first given a bloom effect, and then get tone-mapped to the green color palette.
  • Multiple "raindrops" often occupy the same column. This is complicated, because we can't allow them to collide. The solution in this project is to model each column's glyph brightness is a kind of sawtooth wave, where the width of the teeth subtly fluctuate to keep things interesting. The tips of those teeth— the cells in the grid where the sawtooth dips— are where we put the "cursors" (or "tracers") at the bottom of each raindrop.
  • Capture the glyph cycling sequence. The symbols in Reloaded and Revolutions' opening titles, which were at one point the highest fidelity versions of the 2D effect, change according to a repeating sequence (see glyph order.txt). This is only a technical detail, and while it once drove the glyph cycle in this project, this behavior's been retired.
  • Whip up some artistic license and depict the previous Matrix versions. The sequels describe a paradisiacal predecessor to the Matrix that was too idyllic, and another earlier, nightmarish Hobbesian version that proved too campy. They depict some programs running older, differently colored code, so it's time someone tried rendering them.
  • Heck, try building some homemade varieties that have nothing to do with the franchise. See the list of links above for the full set of available versions.
  • Make it free, open source and web based. Because someone could probably improve on or personalize what I've done, and I'd like to see that— and maybe incorporate their improvements back into this project.
  • Support as many browsers and devices as possible. This project used to rely on Three.js's GPUComputationRenderer, which only worked in browsers supporting WebGL's oes_texture_float extension. This dependency was dropped in later updates, and the project subsequently gained support for a broader range of browsers and devices.
  • Promote a progressive interpretation of the film franchise. The Matrix is an action film you can enjoy without critical analysis, but if you do read into it, you'll be rewarded. And let's be clear: The Matrix is a story about transitioning, directed by two siblings who transitioned. This is undeniable. Its franchise has plenty more themes, and plenty of room for interpretation, but the communities of misogynists and bigots who claim this imagery for their movements cannot be tolerated in any form. This is a chance to open minds, not shut them.

side note: other people's Matrix effects

The number of implementations out there of this effect is a testament to the size of the film's impact on popular culture. For decades, I've enjoyed searching for and comparing them from time to time. That's probably how you arrived here— it's fun to see what kinds of solutions different people come up with to a problem, when the process is purely recreational and its success is subjective. I myself tried and failed to make the effect many times over.

Some of the earliest, roughest versions were made after the film hit theaters in March, but before it was released on home media in October— people were recreating the effect purely from memory. Others probably used the official screensaver as a reference, which was made by the time-strappped developers of the (excellent, defunct) official site from the images and multimedia tools they had available.


customization

You can customize the digital rain quite a bit by stapling "URL variables" to its URL— by putting a '?' at the end of the link above, and then chaining together words, like this:

https://rezmason.github.io/matrix/?width=100&fallSpeed=-0.1&effect=none

Now you know link fu. Here's a list of customization options:

  • version - the version of the Matrix to simulate. Default is "classic".
    • "classic" is the Matrix code everyone knows and loves, mostly based on the sequels' opening title graphics.
    • "3d" is the classic code in 3D mode.
    • "megacity" is a variation of the classic code that includes the Megacity as a glyph, as is seen in the opening titles of Revolutions.
    • "operator" is more reminiscent of the matrix code as it appears in the first movie's opening titles, and on operators' screens: flatter, crowded, without a gradient, and with occasional effects (such as a square ripple).
    • "nightmare" is how the Matrix may have appeared in the Merovingian's heyday: flashy, foreboding, relentless.
    • "paradise" is how the Matrix's idyllic predecessor may have appeared: warm, simplistic, encompassing.
    • "resurrections" is the updated Matrix code
    • "palimpsest" is a custom version inspired by the art and sound of Rob Dougan's Furious Angels.
  • skipIntro - whether or not to start from a blank screen. Can be "true" or "false", default is true.
  • font - the set of glyphs to draw. Current options are "matrixcode", "resurrections", "gothic", "coptic", "huberfishA", and "huberfishD".
  • width - the number of columns (and rows) to draw. Default is 80.
  • volumetric - when set to "true", this renders the glyphs with depth, slowly approaching the eye. Default is "false".
  • density - the number of 3D raindrops to draw, proportional to the default. Default is 1.0.
  • forwardSpeed - the rate that the 3D raindrops approach. Default is 1.0.
  • slant - the angle that the 2D raindrops fall, in degrees. Default is 0.
  • bloomSize - the glow quality, from 0 to 1. Default is 0.5. Lowering this value may help the digital rain run smoother on your device.
  • bloomStrength - the glow intensity, from 0 to 1. Default is 1.
  • ditherMagnitude - the amount to randomly darken pixels, to conceal banding. Default is 0.05.
  • resolution - the image size, relative to the window size. Default is 1. Lowering this value may improve your performance, especially on high pixel density displays.
  • raindropLength - the vertical scale of "raindrops" in the columns. Can be any number.
  • animationSpeed - the overall speed of the animation. Can be any number.
  • fallSpeed - the speed of the rain's descent. Can be any number.
  • cycleSpeed - the speed that the glyphs change their symbol. Can be any number.
  • effect - alternatives to the default post-processing effect. Can be "plain", "pride", "customStripes", "none", "image" or "mirror".
    • ("none" displays the 'debug view', a behind-the-scenes look at the anatomy of the effect.)
  • camera - some effects, ie. the mirror effect, optionally support webcam input. Can be "true" or "false". Default is false.
  • colors - if you set the effect to "customStripes", you can specify the colors of vertical stripes as alternating R,G,B numeric values, like so: https://rezmason.github.io/matrix/?effect=customStripes&colors=1,0,0,1,1,0,0,1,0
  • url - if you set the effect to "image", this is how you specify which image to load. It doesn't work with any URL; I suggest grabbing them from Wikipedia: https://rezmason.github.io/matrix/?effect=image&url=https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f5/EagleRock.jpg
  • loops - (WIP) if set to "true", this causes the effect to loop, so that it can be converted into a looping video.

Future directions

This project is still in active development, but some upcoming features are worth mentioning.

  • An audio element. Things make sounds, don't they? Yes, they do, especially in movies. And while silence is precious, there are plans to provide a setting that introduces some kind of pleasant audio treatment to the effect.
  • A user interface that isn't a URL. This project supports a lot of configurable options under the hood, and it would be wise to add a fun looking UI that exposes them all to visitors in an intuitive way.

Contributions

The Coptic glyphs in the "Paradise Matrix" version are derived from George Douros's font "Symbola", due to their similarity to the script in CG II of Nag Hammadi. If a 4th century Gnostic scribe trolled Athanasius over IRC, it might look like this.

The Gothic glyphs in the "Nightmare Matrix" version are derived from Dr. jur. Robert Pfeffer's font "Silubur", which are inspired by the uncial script found in the Codex Argenteus. If a werewolf emailed a vampire in the 6th century, it might look like this.

The glyphs used in the "Palimpsest" and "Twilight" versions are derived from Teague Chrystie's font "Huberfish", a fictitious alphabet that comes in several styles. If a spacedock technician bought a soda from a vending machine in an cool utopian future that will never happen, it might look like this.

GitHub user 57r31 produced a proof of concept that led to the interactive mirror effect.


Other details

The glyphs are formatted as a multi-channel distance field (or MSDF) via Victor Chlumsky's msdfgen. This format preserves the crisp edges and corners of vector graphics when rendered as textures. Chlumsky's thesis paper, which is in English and is also easy to read, is available to download here.

The raindrops themselves are particles computed on the GPU and stored in textures, much smaller than the final render. The data sent from the CPU to the GPU every frame is negligible.