Flickering Myth recently published a brilliant article detailing the process of making Gravity. From the on-set technology to the VFX, Gravity broke new ground in film-making techniques and introduced audiences to an astonishing cinematic experience.
Most of the VFX were carried out by the UK's Framestore, with contributions from Rising Sun Pictures, NVizible, Peanut FX and Prime Focus. cineSync helped to keep communication lines open.
In the Flickering Myth article, Tony Clark, VFX Supervisor for Rising Sun Pictures on Gravity, talked about how they worked on a 2 1/2 minute sequence towards the end of the movie:
“RSP was approached by Executive Producer Nikki Penny [Clash of the Titans] to bid on the re-entry sequence for Gravity,” explains Visual Effects Supervisor Tony Clark (Blood Diamond) who co-founded the Australian VFX company in 1995. “We had Framestore’s previz as a starting point, and we worked with her and the Studio to get an understanding of the needs of the sequence from there. The early weeks involved us speaking with Alfonso and Tim [Webber] to get their take on the sequence to help drive our technical and creative development of the sequence.” Clark remarks, “Tim, and Alfonso, would use reference footage and the previz to help describe what was required for various elements in the sequence. This was done through a large amount of cineSync sessions and video conferences; these sessions usually included a batch of YouTube reference clips that had certain elements that they wanted to see in the re-entry sequence, from how plasma works to the movement of a parachute when it deploys.”
“The previz was a huge factor in the composition of the shots,” states Clark. “Our first stage for some of the early audience screenings was to take the previz and rework it in our pipeline with our assets and rudimentary effects. As the destruction, flame and plasma was a huge element in terms of frame composition. We needed a way to determine how these would look on the screen, whilst hitting the story points from Alfonso in order to feel peril for the character in the capsule, and to get an incredible sense of speed [re-entry speeds can near 17,500mph]; all without any near reference to help sell the speed. It was a balancing act, which the previz assisted by giving us guidance on first thoughts. Some shots moved significantly away from the previz, whereas others looked close to what was originally envisioned.”
The original article is highly recommended reading for anyone who's interested in how Gravity was brought to life. The magic behind the scenes is just as fascinating as the film itself!