How Did Gravity Do That? The Secrets Behind Its Groundbreaking Special Effects

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CGI
There were some very real, very physical things that made Gravity possible, like that two-ton camera rig and wires that allowed Bullock to be manipulated like a marionette-- we'll get into those later. But maybe the most miraculous thing about the movie is how it uses CGI in ways that makes even jaded moviegoers marvel at the power of computers. "We knew that the only way to achieve this was digitally," Heyman tells us. "It wasnít even a question." Some scenes, like the bravura "single-take shot" that opens the film, are almost entirely CGI, with the faces of the actors the only elements that weren't created digitally. Others, like scenes where Bullock is strapped in inside a ship, had tiny touches of CGI, "things like belts floating and the like." Even in the film's final scene, where Bullock crash lands on Earth into a miraculously verdant and Earth-like atmosphere, "we did an awful lot of digital work to green that up, so it didnít look like an alien landscape." Yes, even the single scene of the movie set here on Earth required digital manipulation.

For many actors who are in CGI-heavy films, the end result can seem alien, as if their work is just a speck inside a story they don't even recognize. But as Bullock told Hitfix, the huge amount of CGI allowed her to experience the movie the way we did. "I had never seen George's side. I'd never seen the stars, the space shuttle. I didn't know what the music was. I didn't know what I looked like in the suit. I didn't know what we were making or what that looked and felt like. And, I felt like, all of a sudden, this was a gigantic organism that had been created out of technology. And to see it in that beautiful 3D where it was used so sparingly and emotionally? I don't know how to describe it."

Pre-animation
Before any actors stepped on to a soundstage or any CGI effects were added, Cuaron had animated the entire film, shot by shot, so that he knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish once he was on the set. As he told The Huffington Post, "We animated the whole film before. We could have released an animated version with the voices of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney."
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