VFX Exec Discusses Alfonso Cuarón's 'Gravity' Scene Development
While we're still waiting to see some actual footage or any images at all from Alfonso Cuarón's upcoming sci-fi Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, we have been following updates on it. The latest comes from the Warner Bros head of VFX development at the 5D FLUX conference and quotes on our friend Bill Desowitz's blog Immersed in Movies (via The Film Stage). Gravity, a space adventure about an astronaut stuck floating in space, will feature extended long shots, like in Cuarón's Children of Men, shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, with only 156 shots total in the entire two-hour movie. Read on!
In the blog update, Desowitz quotes Chris deFaria, who "oversees development of VFX and animation at Warner Bros", and was speaking at the 5D FLUX conference at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. He talks briefly, and very vaguely, about some of the ideas they were trying to capture, including that 17 minute single-shot opening scene we've heard about before. "We began building it as an animated film and Alfonso had an idea that he wanted the shots to be incredibly long," deFaria explains. "I said, 'How long?' And he said he wanted the first shot to be really long. And I said, 'You mean, 40 seconds?' 'No, 17 minutes.' So it ends up the film only has 156 shots in the entire two-hour movie, many of them six, eight, ten minutes long." Amazing. This is the kind of filmmaking that I am genuinely excited to see, I cannot wait.
So, we know Gravity is essentially, as described by George Clooney, "Two people in space. No monsters. It's more like 2001 than an action film." But what exactly will we be seeing, especially as 10-minute long shots? "Instead of trying to create real people and what they're doing, let's turn it around and create almost an entirely animated film and then backwards engineer the people into that film," he reveals. "As a matter of fact, let's not even engineer the people into the film, let's engineer their faces. So you've got these little faces inside these little helmets." Sounds like a lot of long shots of Bullock or Clooney just floating through space.
Which is exactly what this might be, if I'm correctly reading between the lines. He continues on Gravity:
"But the moment we went to work pre-vising this, we went into shot production. We were pre-vising shots and the assets we were building digitally and the angles we were creating in the camera, we were virtually committing to during that process. But when we began to bring in both the production designer [Andy Nicholson] and the DP [Emmanuel Lubezki], we realized that we were committing to many things, not just shot design but lighting, direction, every prop, every single doorway, every single distance so that when we shot somebody’s eyes, they were converging at the right distance point. And we had a myriad of tools to deal with that. But we didn’t create the virtual world and let the live action drive what was ultimately going to be the shot. We actually created the shot and then made the live action work within it.”
That's fascinating to hear, but at first makes me nervous that it's such a reverse process of filmmaking, that how would it actually work. But I have complete faith in both Alfonso Cuarón and his DP Emmanuel Lubezki that what they're pulling off here will be remarkable, and potentially have a big impact on sci-fi filmmaking. His comment about converging eyes somewhat confirms my thoughts about there being a lot of shots of watching someone float through space, unable to alter their path at all in complete zero gravity, observing the universe in front of them slowly drifting away. But I don't know many people outside of the Hollywood inner circle who have seen any finished footage for this yet, even though it was filmed last year.
We'll definitely keep you updated on any quotes or anything we hear regarding Gravity. With a release date still set for November 21st this year, I'm hoping Warner Bros will tease us with something for this before we head into the summer movie season. Stay tuned! Starting to sound like Gravity will be amazing?