Post Magazine

November 2013

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 11 of 51

director's chair Alfonso Cuaron — Gravity H By Iain Blair Long shots, weightlessness and limited sound Director Alfonso Cuaron on set: The film took more than four years to complete. 10 OLLYWOOD — Acclaimed Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron has tackled a lot of different projects — and subject matter — from the beloved children's book "A Little Princess" (his 1995 American feature film debut) to Dickens' "Great Expectations," the raunchy sex comedy Y Tu Mama Tambien, franchise blockbuster Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and the sci-fi drama Children of Men. Along the way he picked up three Oscar nominations and also found time to produce pal Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth. Now the versatile director/writer/producer/editor has headed out to the ultimate frontier, space, for his latest film, the hit 3D thriller Gravity. Co-written and produced by Cuaron, and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, Gravity tells the story of two astronauts on a routine shuttle mission who suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives after space debris destroys their ride home and leaves them stranded with no chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. To create the stunning photo-realism of Gravity, Cuaron assembled a behind-thescenes team that included multiple Oscarnominated director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men, The New World), editor Mark Sanger (VFX editor on Children of Men) and Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Tim Webber (The Dark Knight). Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Cuaron talks about making the film (released by Warner Bros. in 3D, 2D and IMAX), the challenges involved and his love of post. POST: What sort of film did you set out to make? ALFONSO CUARON: "One that's a visual roller-coaster ride but also a very emotional ride. I wanted to weave the two thematic elements together. I wanted it to be a totally immersive experience, where audiences are really invested in the emotional journey of the film." POST: You wrote this with your son Jonas. Did you realize at the time just how difficult you made it for yourselves, setting the story in zero gravity? CUARON: (Laughs) "No, not at all. This was a huge miscalculation. When we finished the screenplay I sent it to DP Emmanuel Lubezki, who's done two films with me, and I told him, 'We can do this in just one year. It'll need a lot of VFX, but I think we can do it in a very conventional way.' And it wasn't until Post • November 2013 we started prepping it that we realized we had to start from scratch and invent our own technology to create all the zero gravity scenes. It ended up taking us four-and-a-half years to make it in the end." POST: Did you always envision this as a stereo 3D film? CUARON: "From the very start.The working title was Gravity; A Space Adventure in 3D. I knew we had to design and shoot it all in 3D to do it justice." POST: What were the main technical challenges of pulling all this together and how tough was the shoot? CUARON: "The biggest one, of course, 12-wire rigs to 'float' the actors and then we fed all that pre-programmed data into robots used for making cars on assembly lines. One robot had the camera, and the others had all the lights. The DP and Tim [visual effects supervisor Tim Webber] invented this amazing tool full of LED lights we called The Light Box. It was a nine-foot square empty cube, and all the inner walls were made of LEDs and screens, with millions of these tiny lights. Those projected the POV of the characters, so we'd have our actor in the middle and the walls would be the environment around them, so we could move the universe around them, instead of the other way, to give the illusion Gravity was conceived as a stereo 3D film. Much of the production took place at Shepperton Studios in London, though some scenes were also shot at Pinewood Studios. was creating zero gravity. Normally, we're bound by gravity and we had to create the whole illusion, even though we obviously couldn't shoot in space. We first tried using conventional techniques, but they didn't work. First, it's very stressful for the actors and you can't really create zero gravity here on Earth. And then we were also using very long, continuous takes — for over 60 percent of the whole film. So that made it even more complex. We shot it all at Shepperton Studios in London, and on location in Lake Powell, Arizona, and the studio part was incredibly challenging. I don't think anyone's ever done anything as complicated." POST: How much technology did you have to invent to pull this off? CUARON: "Everything, and it all had to be pre-programmed. We used these special they were floating in space or wherever." POST: How early did you have to integrate post into the shoot? It sounds like you began before you even started shooting? CUARON: "Right, and it was very strange as we actually needed to complete post before we even started pre-production. We had to do very precise animation for the whole film, with perfect lighting and rendering. Most of the film's lighting was done virtually, so the DP was working on just the lighting effects for almost two years.Then some of the rendering started every scene's prep work. Now once we'd shot the film and had all the pieces, the problem was that it's a worst-case scenario for animation, as it's animation that's then bounded by live actors. Then it was also a worst-case scenario for a shoot, as it was filming that was completely pre-programmed

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Post Magazine - November 2013