cineSync played a key role in a globe-spanning VFX pipeline for Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. Charting the lonely quest of an astronaut (Sandra Bullock) to survive after her spaceship is crippled, the film received ten Oscar® nominations, including one for Best Visual Effects. Framestore, principal VFX vendor on Gravity, tasked Australia’s Rising Sun Pictures with completing a spectacular reentry sequence. From their facility in Adelaide, Rising Sun was able to integrate seamlessly with Framestore via cineSync. With cineSync as a remote collaboration tool, distributed postproduction teams can work together closely to create groundbreaking VFX, regardless of locations and time zones.
In fact, cineSync was used for remote review on all of the movies nominated for Best Visual Effects this year, including The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness, as well as Gravity. cineSync itself won a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy in 2011.
The Pull of Gravity
Rarely has the big screen been put to better use than it is here, in conveying the immensity of space. The tight confines of spacecraft are set against infinite blackness. Often the only sounds in the film are the breathing of Bullock’s character, astronaut Stone. Physical objects float unbearably slowly, even as the narrative races inexorably forward. The tension is so complete, and the imagery so seamless, that is easy to forget that the entire film depends on visual effects work.
The film’s climactic scene shows Stone attempting reentry into earth’s atmosphere. Rising Sun Pictures completed 17 shots for this sequence. Using Framestore’s pre-vis for reference, Rising Sun worked with director Cuarón, executive producer Nikki Penny and Tim Webber, VFX supervisor at Framestore, to craft and deliver the 2.5-minute sequence.
“We came up with technical and creative solutions through talking to Tim and Alfonso,” said Tony Clark, VFX supervisor and co-founder of RSP. “These conversations required a large number of cineSync sessions, usually including various reference clips of elements they wanted to include in the reentry scene.”
For the scene, Rising Sun created stereoscopic, all-CG shots that included the space station and reentry module, plasma and flame effects surrounding the descending vehicle, the violent destruction of a space station, earth environments, atmospheric effects, parachutes and panoramic matte painting.
“It’s always great to work with a local VFX house, but these days, with communications as advanced as they are, it’s getting easier to work remotely,” said Webber. “On Gravity we worked with Rising Sun, literally at the opposite end of the world from our base in London. This was made significantly easier using cineSync. It is tried and tested software that has been such an integral part of so many films that it’s almost synonymous with remote working.”
“As the VFX industry continues to grow worldwide, we are seeing how facilities are constantly discovering new means to do better, more inventive work, with tight timelines and, in some cases, shrinking budgets,” said Cospective’s Rory McGregor, product manager of cineSync. “One particularly effective tool is remote collaboration between post houses. This allows you to bring in the best artists, regardless of where they are. This is precisely what Framestore did, using cineSync to communicate efficiently and clearly with the artists at Rising Sun Pictures.”
An exemplar of remote collaboration, Rising Sun Pictures has contributed to many recent Hollywood features, including The Great Gatsby, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and others. Working from Adelaide, South Australia, RSP has been able to integrate their workflows with studios and facilities in North America, Europe and Asia, all thanks to cineSync.
Cospective, the maker of cineSync, has been continually innovating in the area of synchronized remote review and approval and recently released Frankie, which is tailored for the review of short-form media such as TV commercials and which allows cineSync-style reviews in an Internet browser. “Cospective’s remote review and approval tools have never been more in demand than today in the new world of international filmmaking and advertising,” added McGregor.