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GRAVITY: VFX Breakdown

I worked for 9 months in Australia on the academy-award winning feature film, “Gravity”. Hired as the sequence lead/sequence TD of a small team, I was tasked with creating the 3 shots of Sandra Bullock’s small spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere at the very climax of the film. The challenge was to create computer-generated cloth parachutes that could be fully shaped and directed manually, while also demonstrating the high-frequency dynamic cloth behaviour of parachutes in action at high velocity.

Having three dynamic, daisy-chained parachutes each release in a tight ball, then unfurl in the wind, billow with air, and then drag out the next dynamic parachute by the ropes was no easy feat. The subtleties of the parachutes catching the wind, then continuing to ripple and “breath” as the spacecraft drifted gently to earth proved to be a fun challenge, as was the chattering of the ropes in the wind, once the space craft had touched down to water. We went to lengths to make sure the trajectory of the space craft, the amount it rocked and bounced, and the animation of the camera were designed for maximum impact at this crucial moment in the story’s crescendo. If we did our job right, the viewer should be lost in the story and not even realize the shots are entirely computer-generated art. It was detailed work, but highly rewarding to see on the big screen.

Special thanks to team-mates Mark Wendell, Victor Glushchenko, John Van Der Zalm, Sam Hodge, and Pat Sarrell.

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