Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Every “space engineer” should see Gravity in IMAX

This Saturday, our team went to IMAX to watch Gravity - www.imdb.com/title/tt1454468

I was looking forward to this movie since I read about it years ago. It was better than I expected. Gravity is a great technical, visual and audio experience! Some of us are so thrilled that we are going for a second rep with colleagues who couldn’t join us the first time.

The film’s title is Gravity, but it’s actually about the absence of gravity in space. It shows how even the simplest moves can become impossible if you lose a steady ground.

The authors adhered to the laws of physics, avoided fantasy elements and story-shortcuts and created a compelling and believable story.

For example, there’s no sound in space. And so in this film the only sounds you can hear is radio communication, the heartbeat and vibrations on the astronaut’s body. If something happens outside of the astronaut’s suit and she isn’t touching that surface, we don’t hear that sound because vibrations can’t transfer. The lack of sound effects would decrease the emotional energy of the film and so they “fixed it” by having music score that resembles those sounds.

The film opens with a continuous shot that lasts 17-minutes, without cinematic cuts. The camera flies through space, spins around the actors, zooms in and out and there’s no single cut. The whole film has only 156 shots. I truly admire this type of craftsmanship. The process they achieved is interesting as well: an actor was strapped inside a 6 meter tall box that had 4096 LEDs on its sides, where simulated scenery and lighting was projected. A computer-controlled camera was the only element that moved inside this box and did all those fly-bys.

I have never seen a camera transition from third-person to first-person with such smoothness. There’s one scene where the camera gets close to the astronaut helmet, enters the helmet, turns around so we can watch from the astronaut’s point of view, then we see the HUD on her helmet, we see her face and all emotions she is experiencing, then the camera spins again and flies away. Amazing!

You can see part of it in this trailer:

Real astronauts were impressed by the film as well. Buzz Aldrin (the second person to walk on the Moon) says: "Going through the space station was done just the way that I've seen people do it in reality". Mr. Aldrin has noted one defect: "This movie gave great clarity to looking down and seeing the features of Earth … but there weren't enough clouds, and maybe there was too precise a delineation from space".

Here is an article if you want to read a more elaborate analysis of what’s right and wrong on Gravity:

I recommend watching this film in IMAX. Not just because of the 3D, but also for the big screen and excellent acoustics. You will feel like you are there, in space with zero gravity.

Gravity seems to be a commercial success as well, grossing $82mil in the opening weekend. I am glad that people like these types of films.

Go see Gravity while they screen it in IMAX and let me know how you liked it.


Thanks for reading this!

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  1. WEeeeeeeeeeee, I enjoy reading your blogposts! They have great emotion ;3
    By the way, really excited for Space Engineers. Buying it instantly on Early Access!

  2. your right, the movie was great!

  3. ...Marek...There is never an absence of gravity in space... C'mon man. Physics for the win.

  4. "[...]But it’s actually about the absence of gravity in space." There is always Gravity in space, in fact, nowhere in the Universe is there an "absence of gravity." Here is a good revision for your statement "but it’s actually about freefall in space."