How They Made Gravity

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 3 2014 3:29 PM

How They Made Gravity

Gravity's "Light Box"
Filmmaking in space is impossible.

Photo still of the Light Box in "From Script to Screen" featurette.

I’d read about the technology that Alfonso Cuarón and his crew created to make Gravity possible, but it’s a different thing to see it. In this video released over the holidays, you can. It really gets going around 1:35—and the amazing “Light Box” technology shows up around 2:30:

(Note: The last 10 seconds of this video contain a major spoiler.) 

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That “Light Box” is the really ingenious thing: Rather than trying to figure out how to move Sandra Bullock through space, they realized they could move space around her. Not that it was simple from there. To make the technique work, they built the Light Box, or “Sandy’s Box,” out of “1.8 million individually controllable LED bulbs”—essentially it’s 360 degrees of Jumbotron screens—and then piloted the camera through it using a robot.

It’ll be a sham if any other movie wins the best visual effects Oscar. And I can’t wait to see what other movies do with this technology from here.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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