The Making of What Are Tensors?

The seed of the idea for What Are Tensors occurred whilst watching the Matrix Trilogy. I think everyone has their own pet peeve for the weak justification used for the existence of the Matrix. Personally, it is the pure stupidity of using humans as a source of heat energy. The only waste of a truly advanced civilization is heat!

If you can make the nutrients the humans need to consume, you could just burn them for energy directly without bothering to send them through a human first.

Following this logic through, I wondered what would happen if the Humans had won the war. The result was "What Are Tensors?", a dystopian future in which vast arrays of micro chips are run - not to perform any useful computation - but merely to generate heat to power the generators humans need to create their food stuffs.

(Parenthetically, this also suggests my own old explanation to justify the original Matrix. Humans just *think* they are used as an energy source. They are actually being used as computation resource)

The question than became one of scope. My first vision was the poor chip being transformed into a CR2032. However, I began to sketch out further parts of the movie. I began to think about redoing the entire opening of the movie. The big trouble, I realized (bigger even then the fact that it would be way too much work), was trying to bring the audience into the movie. The whole chip-as-people stunt would be apparent from the first step. Unlike the Matrix where seeing normal humans walk around is normal, so one can slip into the abnormal, seeing computer chips walk around is abnormal. There is no way to create that sudden shift of perception that I desired.

I then realized that one could accomplish that by drastically reducing the scope. By concentrating on a movie trailer, I could hold off the revelation of *who* won the war until it is ready.

The new scope proved very powerful. I quickly sketched a storyboard. The big question was about the plant-growth scene. I had planned on having a CG plant grow in a desert. However, I was reminded that the Ivy animation would be much cooler. I think its mechanistic nature fits the viewpoint of the machines well.

From storyboard to final video took one day. I used, of course, Houdini for the modelling, animation, and compositing. Various texture maps were sourced in from the web. Care was done to ensure the final chip is accurately dimensioned & labelled.

Voice track was created by the simple expedient of speaking while the video was playing and then merging with VirtualDub.

I hope you enjoyed watching this as much as I enjoyed making it.