Anatomy of a Scene: Gravity Opening

The extraordinary 13-minute opening of Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is like a mini-movie, setting up the zero-gravity world in space, the two astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the mood, the tension, the crisis, and the metaphor. I break it down with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Emmanuel (Chivo) Lubezki, production designer Andy Nicholson, VFX supervisor Tim Webber, sound mixer Chris Munro, and editor Mark Sanger.

“That opening shot is like the overture to a symphony, so we had to come up with the overture before knowing the rest of the movie,” explains Lubezki about the most difficult shot in his prestigious career. “It is a series of shots that are very objective and very wide and presentational that become subjective. The idea was to grab and immerse the audience in the movie as soon as possible, and to sell the idea of this micro-gravity, who these characters are. They are so tiny and when you look at the Earth from high above, it looks like an organism that is alive.

“It talks about tiny particles in a massive universe, mortality, rebirth, many emotions that you can go through throughout your life. So there’s that layer of the thematic and then thee’s the visual that has to do with what we call ‘the elastic shot.’ You start really wide that become subjective shots that you’re seeing through Sandra’s POV. And then they come out and become objective again.

“Something that was so exciting for me was, as the ISS is spinning around the world so fast and the shuttle is spinning, things are changing very fast. The composition is changing, the lighting is changing, the textures are changing – what you see on the Earth is changing…”

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.


Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Cinematography, Editing, Oscar, previs, Production Design, Sound, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production

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