Alfonso Cuaron’s new sci-fi film Gravity is not only a groundbreaking film that effectively showcases the dangers of outer space, it is also a piece of technical mastery, with many new technologies invented specifically for the film in order to achieve its incredible visuals. It also pays homage to the countless number of people who have worked in space and on space programs.
Their amazing talents and knowledge of the science and technology required to make this happen are also what Gravity successfully manages to encapsulate in its 90-minute running time. It goes without saying that Gravity relies on extensive use of CGI, but in addition to that, many new technologies were created for the film.
The production team created “The Lightbox,” a special cube-like rig of lights that could simulate the changing lighting conditions as the characters were spun around from one disaster to another. Combined with the huge camera rig to simulate the zero-G environments, it turns out that Sandra Bullock spent a lot of her time stationary while all the equipment was moving around her. This is an amazing feat considering that in the final film, it feels like she is the one spinning around.
For all the scenes where Bullock is floating around inside the two space stations presented in the film, old fashioned puppeteers were brought in. Bullock was hooked up to 12 carbon-thin wires that were virtually invisible on screen with puppeteers moving her around. The net result was longer takes, which allowed for a more immersive and believable experience.
Some scientific naysayers have complained the film wasn’t entirely realistic. Why doesn’t Sandra Bullock’s hair float in zero-G? You can’t travel between space stations that are in different orbits! These criticisms and more may have been missing the point of the movie, which was to give the audience a real feeling as to what it was like in space. Astronauts approached the filmmakers later on to say they were pleased the film was made because they can now point to it as a reference for others as to what it’s like up there. And astronauts would know what they’re talking about, right?
Gravity is an incredible film that must be watched on the big screen, and preferably in IMAX. Not only is it a thrilling story of survival, but it showcases the dangers that astronauts face when they go into space, and also the technical wizardry that has allowed us to go there at all. A lot of new technology was created to make Gravity possible, but at the end of the day, it is a story of survival against the odds and the strength of the human spirit. That’s science fiction at its best.