“I first heard about Gravity at the beginning of 2010,” says visual effects supervisor Tim Webber, a longtime collaborator of director Alfonso Cuarón—and the man Cuarón approached to help realize a film no one knew how to make. “Alfonso came in and talked us through the movie for 45 minutes and it was gripping.”
Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone in
As he started work on the film, it was unclear to what extent visual effects and Webber’s team at London’s Framestore would be needed. “There was a stage initially where it was going to be made with actors in real space suits,” Webber continues. In the end, considerably more of the film is CGI than first discussed—and in fact considerably more of it is computer generated than real. In the majority of shots, the only elements captured with a camera are the faces. The vastness of space, the Earth, the stars, the space shuttles, the Hubble telescope, the International Space Station, the numerous and villainous fragments of debris, even the space suits: they were all made by visual effects artists at Framestore.
“There are bits that people just assume have been filmed, for instance a mid-range shot when [Stone is] working on the Hubble,” says Weber. “Lots of people have seen it and asked us what we did there. They had no idea that it’s basically all CG apart from her face.”
That’s the aim for Gravity: that those years of extremely hard work by more than 400 people went unnoticed and people walked out of the theater wondering how they got a film crew up into space.