BY ADAM GRACE
THE APU (Armoured Personnel Unit) is a human-piloted offensive/defensive mobile platform. It is anthropomorphic with bipedal locomotion and two independent 30mm belt-feed guns. The APU and the APU Corps form part of the defence against the Matrix, in particular the Sentinels.
THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS features an enormous battle between the Sentinels and the APU Corps in Zion.
Initial designs were produced by Conceptual Artist Geof Darrow. Some early renditions incorporated ideas such as a fully enclosed battle suit. (see The Art of The Matrix, pg 269) A final design was approved, with eventual minor changes such as the removal of the head shield and console plating to enable a clearer view of characters. Often details are altered to accommodate the requirements for filming. In this case the general look and feel is maintained but the needs of the story and character recognition is given priority.
As the designs were being finalized, preliminary motion studies were being carried out by Grant Niesner at Eon Entertainment. This way not only the look of the APU was being determined but also how it moved. Its range of motion was dictated by the size and inferred mass of its parts, the way it was jointed, and what details and dressings such as hoses were attached. There were also some specific actions that Directors Larry and Andy Wachowski and Visual Effects Supervisor John Gaeta wanted the APU to achieve. The relevant components in the limbs were then adjusted to compensate for the required actions. Design details were confirmed with Production Designer Owen Paterson. The APU designs were approved in the US, with the development of the carriage details continuing in Australia.
The APU designs by Grant Niesner were developed in “Maya” as a 3D model. Once approved, the designs were sent to 3D Computer Modeller Sergei Chadiloff in Australia. The files were imported into “Form Z” for Sergei to break the completed model into sub-assemblies and individual components for manufacture. With constant reference to the approved designs, Sergei ensured that the parts’ form followed it’s function; only making adjustments where necessary to allow for material sizing and availabilty, while still maintaining the look of the design. To convey that the components were part of a real working machine, each component was named. This helped in assembly and referencing any manufacturing issues.
As the work on the various 3D model sub-assemblies was completed, 2D drawings were produced in “Vectorworks”, whilst 3D renderings were produced in “Electric Image”. The computer models were used to visualize script scenarios, and to produce renderings to assist in manufacture and assembly of the APU components. The computer models were also used by VFX in pre-visualization of various scenes. Sergei produced over 100 fully detailed working drawings with over 900 individual components from which the APU was manufactured and assembled.