Gravity won big at the Academy Awards on the weekend, receiving seven well-deserved Oscars including Best Visual Effects. That result was entirely expected since Alfonso Cuaron’s “impossible movie” couldn’t have been made without several brand new, ground-breaking visual effects techniques. In fact, the film contains so many digital effects shots (up to 75% of the movie by some estimates) that many people in the industry were joking earlier this year that it should be nominated for Best Animated Feature too.
While Gravity does make extensive use of computer animation, what struck me while watching this behind-the-scenes feature was how brilliant the practical rigs that were developed for the film are (the relevant stuff kicks in around the 1:34 mark in the video above).
Notice how props and even Sandra Bullock herself is “puppeteered” by the practical effects team in order to simulate zero gravity? Sandra reportedly spent most of her time on set either strung up on wires like a human marionette, or mounted on a gimbal-like motion platform that was performed by a puppeteer on set.
This sort of low-tech-meets-high-tech approach is a lot more common on big Hollywood blockbusters in recent years than many people realize. For just one more example, have a look at this animated GIF of puppeteers “performing” Brandon Routh’s cape in Superman Returns at the right.
Despite all the advances in digital technology, it seems that sometimes the best way to do it is to have someone off camera pulling a few strings.
Whoever said practical effects were dead?
Gravity is now available to own in a Blu-ray / DVD / UltraViolet Combo Pack.