How Gravity's visual effects were created

It's the movie that changed the way we think about 3D cinema forever. If you haven't seen Gravity yet - certainly in 3D and preferably on the biggest screen you can find - then we'd urge you to track down a cinema that's still showing it (there are many).

While the movie features big-name actors George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, the real stars of the show are the visual effects, masterfully created by London studio Framestore (opens in new tab). And they've now released this 'show and tell' video (above), giving us a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes into how they were made.

First steps

Visual effects supervisor Tim Webber first heard about Gravity in 2010, when director Alfonso Cuarón approached Framestore to create the effects. The film was originally going be made with actors in real space suits, hung up on wires on partial sets, that would be extended digitally. In the end, the digital element took over almost completely.

In other words, in most shots, the only physical elements on camera are the faces. The starlit sky, planet Earth, spacecraft, debris and even space suits were all created digitally at Framestore. Consequently, the team had to spent an entire year on planning before they could start shooting.

Sandra Bullock's face was often the only physically-filmed element on screen

Sandra Bullock's face was often the only physically-filmed element on screen

Both Webber and Cuarón took a trip in the NASA 'vomit comet' to experience the sensation of weightlessness. But filming on such flights remains impractical, so the team used a combination of motion controlled cameras and light rigs to simulate the effects of micro gravity for the movie.

Robots and LEDs

Collaborating with Bot & Dolly Motion Control (opens in new tab) and the on-set special effects team (who specialise in physical, in-camera effects as opposed to CGI), cameras were strapped to huge robotic arms and George Clooney and Sandra Bullock were put in a variety of different rigs, many developed specially for the film.

Much of the lighting effects were created inside a 10m cube, with walls of almost two million LED lights. This provided much greater flexibility than traditional film lights - meaning the different colours reflecting off the Earth, moonlight, sunlight and starlight could all be replicated in a realistic and accurate fashion.

You can find more detail about how Gravity was made here (opens in new tab).

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