Netflix's Maniac Mainframe [GRTA]

Fabrication and programming of a "horribly depressed" mainframe for Netflix's Maniac.

Justin Theroux hugs the mainframe / Photo by Michele K. Short / © Netflix Netflix's <i>Maniac</i> Mainframe [GRTA] image

GRTA consisted of 1,476 RGB addressable LEDs controlled by a Teensy 3.1. Visuals were drawn in a custom GUI and the time-based animation data was generated by a PHP script that was dispatched over a specially-crafted serial protocol. In addition to the LEDs, the protocol also supported manipulating the 7-segment numerical displays, analog panel meters, backlights, and hard drive activity lights. Triggered by various key commands, the mainframe could run autonomously or enter a user-controlled puppet mode.

Netflix's <i>Maniac</i> Mainframe [GRTA] image
Netflix's <i>Maniac</i> Mainframe [GRTA] image
Netflix's <i>Maniac</i> Mainframe [GRTA] image
Netflix's <i>Maniac</i> Mainframe [GRTA] image

  • Arduino/C++
  • PHP
  • Javascript
  • Circuit design
  • Fabrication
  • SVG


YouTube: Maniac | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix
IMDb: Alan Watts, mainframe programmer


2019  Deadline, For ‘Maniac,’ Production Designer Alex DiGerlando Crafts Retrofuturistic Look That Is “A Very Hard Thing To Verbalize” To This Day, June 11, 2019
'It’s funny, Patrick wrote it as if the computer was blinking and smiling at Owen. I don’t know that he necessarily meant that so literally, but we found this programmer in Austin, and I was like, “Could you program the lights to be animated?”'

2018  The New Yorker, The Design of "Maniac" Offers an Uncanny Imitation of Life, September 21, 2018
'Dominating the laboratory and overwhelming the visual scheme is a grand and rickety mainframe: an artificial intelligence that has developed emotions. This is an endearingly ridiculous machine, one whose buttons selectively light up to impersonate a woman's face.'

© 2019 Alan Watts / Data X   [top]