My Interesting Afternoon

Last week I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the post-production movie editing studio built by the Wachowki brothers. They are most famous for writing and directing all of The Matrix movies as well as Speed Racer. They also wrote V For Vendetta, an awesome story in my opinion. Since I was told not to take pictures, I'll skimp on specifics.

At the entrance of the building, we were met with one of many security cameras. The building was covered with them. Our friend met us at the door to begin the tour.

It didn't take long to realize what a green building they had created. We were told it was actually one of only three Gold LEED Certified buildings in Chicago. I don't know how many square feet it was, but I'd guess there were at least 30 full time employees there with plenty of room to breathe. Before these folks came along, the building was a large, one story, completely gutted warehouse. There was natural light coming in from all angles. There were solar panels covering the roof. The beautiful wood that covered many surfaces was reclaimed from the floor of Lake Superior. All lights were high efficiency and on timers. Just about any green measure that could be taken was taken.

The main lobby doubled as a sort of wall of fame. All awards were on display. I saw the four Oscars they won for The Matrix and I got to hold one. It was unbelievable heavy. There were probably another 30 awards on display, but I really only remember seeing two MTV Movie Awards and some Nielsen awards.

The next area was the conference room. The table was the most amazing part of the room. I'd be surprised if it seated less than 25 people. It was divided into separate pieces (maybe 12) that were about 6 inches from each-other. The table was some sort of wood, but covered with an inlay of circuit board. It was beautiful. There were two massive flat-screen TVs that were run by the biggest remote control I've ever seen. These touch-screen monsters powered everything in the room: lights, temperature, music, movies, Direct TV, XM satellite radio. The light fixture that covered the length of the conference room was designed to acoustically support sound traveling from one end of the room to the other, so people don't have to shout. There were also lots of cool framed posters, a Jordan jersey, the V For Vendetta script, and a few models from The Matrix including the Nebuchadnezzar and a Sentinel (one of those squid looking things that attacks their ship). It was actually in the first room among the awards, but we also saw a large brass bust of the freshly punched in face of Agent Smith.

From here we walked through a hallway lined with bathrooms, which were, of course, very cool looking. This let us to the basketball court. I suppose it wasn't a full court, but just the end with the hoop. That was retractable, the floors were that of a true court, the walls were padded, and above the pads there were slabs of wood with randomly cut holes in them to help keep the sound contained in the room. Overhead there were two fans that were the biggest I've ever seen. Each blade was easily 6 feet long. They were huge and powerful as hell. Another point on their LEED certification, no doubt.

In the next room we found a ping pong table and a large area where people stored their bikes. There was also a charging Segway that we were told was used in Speed Racer.

Next was the music studio. We had to open the of the heaviest doors I've come across to get in. This extremely thick door was soundproof. There was a drum set and a few other instruments in one room. On the other side of a large glass window you could see the control room. I guess this area wasn't finished yet, but it was still cool to talk in a soundproof room with no echo at all. A very strange feeling actually.

The screening room was the one we saw after the studio. There were about four rows of ten extremely comfortable reclining chairs, each one capable of fully reclining at the touch of a button. The screen was about the size of one you might find in the smallest room of a major cinema. Speed Racer was playing and it was the sharpest, most vivid picture I've ever seen. No exaggeration, the picture was better than High Definition. Our guide told us that the screening we were watching wasn't coming from a Blue-Ray disc, but an actual hard drive reading movie player. In the back of the room was a desk set up with an AVID editing keyboard, so this screening room could be used as a massive editing suite. Behind this was the projector room, which was filled to the brim with stacks of players and computers and amps that I couldn't describe.

Next we traveled down a few hallways of offices and bathrooms. I used one of the bathrooms and got to try out one of those dual flush toilets. These have two buttons for flushing: one for a light flush and one for a full job. They also had those sweet lids and seats that slowly lower themselves down so there's no loud bang. On the way to our friend's office he gestured to one of the rooms saying "that's the massage room. Someone's in there now." Awesome.

When we got to his office he showed us the different security camera views on his computer monitor. Seemed like they had about 15 different cameras through the building. They were all recording onto a hard drive and were motion activated. He also told us about the way the building is wired. Since their primary job there is editing movies and they have all data stored in a central server room, they need to be able to transfer huge amounts of data really quickly. So even though the technology of today isn't able to take advantage of it, they've wired the building to be ready for 10 Gigabit Ethernet. Just for comparison, the normal ethernet cables most of us plug into our desktops or wireless routers are on Gigabit Ethernet technology. 10 Gigabit Ethernet transfers data, not surprisingly, ten times as fast (10 GB/second). They also use fiber optic cables, but I don't really know for what. I gather it's really fast though.

From here we saw the server room. Our guide entered a code into the numeric keypad to unlock the bulletproof door. It was about 50 degrees in there so the rows of machines didn't overheat. This was the brains of the building, operating the RAID system were all editors shared footage, the security system, the phone system, the amplifiers and Direct TV boxes, the XM Satellite radio system and the backup battery system that helps to keep the data safe in the event of a power failure. I can't remember exactly how it worked, but I think I remember him saying that if there is a fire in that room, it fills with some computer safe foam to put it out.

The kitchen was the last area we saw. Sounds boring, but it was a beautiful, of course. There were two large refrigerators and pantries that seemed fair game for all employees. Their espresso maker was about half the size of my home refrigerator and probably cost twice as much. People sat at bar stools at a counter to eat. Next to the kitchen was a little lounge area complete with a fireplace, two chairs from The Matrix scene where Morpheus offers Neo the red pill or the blue pill, and the company dog hanging out by the fireplace.

We weren't allowed to see the editor's workspaces for the same reasons I wasn't allowed to take pictures (and perhaps shouldn't be writing about this). He did say that their current project is under the working title Ninja Assassin and it stairs Rain, the Korean pop-star you may remember from the Steven Colbert dance competition.

I hope you enjoy reading about this place half as much as I enjoyed visiting it.


Stevie said...

dual flush toilets are awesome. in my mind, the swedes invented them.