Interstellar: inside the black art

Mike Seymour gets deep into the Visual effects of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar including the creation of the black hole, giant tidal waves, and how to cinematically depict the four dimensional cube that is the Tesseract.


Artists are often asked to produce images of things never seen before, and often times asked to make them look real when no one is quite sure how they would actually exist. In Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin and the team at Double Negative were asked to produce images of things that aren’t even in our dimension, and furthermore have them accurate to not only quantum physics and relativistic laws but also our best understanding (guess) of quantum gravity.

Luckily, amongst the key team at Dneg was chief scientist Oliver James. James has a collage degree in optics and atomic physics and a personal understanding of Einstein’s relativity laws. He worked, as did Franklin with the film’s executive producer and scientific advisor Kip Thorne. Thorne would work out complex equations in Mathematica and send them James to recode into IMAX quality renderings. To meet the needs of the film and to solve the visual problems involved, James had to not only visualize equations describing the arcing and bending trajectory of light but also equations that ended up describing how a cross section of a beam of light changes its size and shape during its journey past the black hole.

Even then James’ code was only part of the solution – he worked hand in hand with the artistic team lead by CG supervisor Eugenie von Tunzelmann which would add say an accretion disc and create the background galaxy and all its stars and nebulae, that get warped as their light rays are bent past a black hole. But as complex as it is to for the first time show a black hole scientifically correctly in a film, the team also had to show someone entering a four-dimensional tesseract, which also extrudes or shadows into the three dimensions of a little girl’s bedroom – all in a way an audience could follow.

FX Guide | Read the Full Article

Astronaut – A journey to space

What does astronaut see from up there? From the red soil of africa, the blue water of oceans, to the green lights of the poles and yellow light of human activity, discover, through this journey to space, something astoundingly beautiful and strange at the same time. by Guillaume JUIN

I wanted to do something different from what has been done before with those shots. Something more dynamic and fast. After all, ISS travel through space at 28.000km/h! There are also more recent footage that have never been used (at least I think…) in other edits.

All the credit goes to the crew members of ISS expeditions 28, 29, 30, 31, 34, shot from 2011 to 2014.
The international Space Station weigh 377 tons, orbits the earth at around 350km from the surface, and does one spin around the earth in 1h30, at 28.000k/h! At 1’11 we can see a little refueling shuttle desintegrating back to earth. At 1’20, it’s a little telecom satellitte (Cygnus) that is launched into orbit. The little green and purple lights you can see at 1’57 are respectively fishing boats and oil platforms offshore with the big city of Bangkok nearby.

All the footage (around 80GB of pictures) was processed throught after effects/premiere, denoised for some shots, removal of dead pixels for some shots, deflickering, and simple color grading (didnt want to change the already incredible look! just curves, saturation, and some blue crushing). Don’t hesitate to comment and ask questions about the video!

Video courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center


5 Tips For The DP Whose Director Is Also The Lead Actor

Cybel Martin offers 5 tips for the director of photography who is shooting a director who is also the lead actor.

Lead actor director

1. Create a Visual Shorthand – if you’ve been following my articles, you know how much I love pre-production and pouring over reference material with my directors. This is even more important if your director will spend the majority of production in front of the camera. During prep, Nana gave me over 10 films to watch or rewatch that emulated the style/tone she was going for. I countered with more film references and photographs that I thought would support her script and aesthetic. Once on set, if Nana said “like the Big Lebowski shot” or “what we liked in Darjeeling [Express]”, I knew what to do next.

Aside: when it comes to reference material, my director and I will often formulate the look of a film based on established works of art. The colors of this painting. Mixed with the camera movement of that film. But with the lens choices of this photographer. But maybe you, the Director or the Production Designer would rather create original works of art to serve as a visual reference. See Akira Kurosawa’s amazing storyboards for “Ran”. Or read about Production Designer, Dante Ferretti’s work on “Gangs of New York” and his recent awe-inspiring show at MOMA, “Dante Ferretti: Designing for the Big Screen”.

2. Rules of Your Visual Language. Once you and the Director have narrowed down your reference material, your likes and dislikes, the “rules” will be self-evident. I won’t give away all of our secrets yet, but each of the films Nana liked treated camera movement in a similar way and approached color in a similar fashion. In prep, you and your Director should come up with a list of rules for your film. For instance: only use the color purple to signify death or an eyelight to foreshadow “not guilty” (a personal favorite from the genius film “12 Angry Men”).

If you lose a location, lose a few hours and need to reimagine a scene on the spot, this list of agreed upon rules will cut short discussion on what needs to be done next. This predetermined set of rules is also a safeguard preventing the final film from emulating your, the DP’s, taste over the director. See my previous article on how those same rules will be supportive in post production.

IndieWire | Read the Full Article

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