How They Did It: Interstellar Docking

There is no greater showcase of  Interstellar’s VFX and sonic excellence than in the “emergency docking” scene. The Oscar-nominated VFX involves both full CG and practical, as well as a combination of the two, while the Oscar-contending sound editing and mixing immerse us in the action in a most visceral way. (Watch the scene below.)

Dr. Mann (Matt Damon) blows up the Ranger and that starts the wheel of the Endurance spinning uncontrollably as it’s beginning to drop out of orbit. And then Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) has to fire up the rockets on the Lander, chase after the Endurance and then get underneath it to synchronize his rotation with the spin of the Endurance so he can dock with the emergency airlock.

As VFX supervisor Paul Franklin explained, “The opening shots of Dr. Mann reversing into the airlock on the side of the Endurance were accomplished with the miniatures with the full size Ranger [from New Deal Studios], which we used for the foreground elements and then the 1/15 scale miniature of the Endurance for the moment when we see the Ranger entering the docking port. That involves very precise motion control work by New Deal. They had to reconcile the movement of the motion control camera with the live-action camera that Chris had shot on the full-size model.”

For supervising sound editor Richard King, the scene is like being in one of those spinning Gravitron carnival rides, with the centrifugal force pinning you up against the wall. “By far the strongest forces in the movie are the forces of nature — from dust storms on earth to the gravitational pull of a black hole — to the intense centrifugal force of a spinning spacecraft,” King suggested. “Much experimentation and research in recording, as well as with my colleagues on the mixing console (Gary Rizzo and Gregg Landaker) was devoted to creating a dense sonic soup for the scenes involving enormous gravitational forces.It’s obviously important to increase the jeopardy by including the sounds of the Lander straining with the G forces and getting slammed by debris from the damaged Endurance.”

Read the rest at TOH/Indiewire.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Below the Line, Clips, Movies, Music, Oscar, previs, Sound, Tech, VFX

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