American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 36

Facing the
Void
Emmanuel Lubezki, ASC, AMC and
his collaborators detail their work on
Gravity, a technically ambitious
drama set in outer space.
By Benjamin B
*|*

G

ravity begins with a memorable 13-minute continuous
take: a breathtaking view of Earth from space that
slowly reveals a sunlit space station with three people in
spacesuits floating peacefully around it. Suddenly, a mass
of fast-moving debris from an exploded satellite pummels the
station, killing one person and leaving the other two, astronaut
Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and medical engineer Ryan
Stone (Sandra Bullock), marooned in space. The rest of the
movie follows their struggle to survive with a dwindling
supply of oxygen as they try to make their way to the nearest
space station.

36

November 2013

The 3-D feature is enhanced by long takes and fluid
camerawork that immerse the viewer in the beautiful but
dangerous environment of space with a groundbreaking level
of realism and detail. It is the fruit of a five-year collaboration
involving director Alfonso Cuarón; cinematographer
Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, ASC, AMC; visual-effects
supervisor Tim Webber, and their talented teams. Longtime
friends Cuarón and Lubezki have worked together on six
features to date, including Y Tu Mamá También and Children
of Men (AC Dec. '06). Webber supervised visual effects on the
latter.
The technical and aesthetic accomplishments of
Gravity become all the more impressive when Lubezki reveals
that the only real elements in the space exteriors are the actors'
faces behind the glass of their helmets. Everything else in the
exterior scenes - the spacesuits, the space station, the Earth
- is CGI. Similarly, for a scene in which a suit-less Stone
appears to float through a spaceship in zero gravity, Bullock
was suspended from wires onstage, and her surroundings were
created digitally. (Most of the footage in the space capsules
was shot with the actors in a practical set.)
In many ways, Gravity provides a new paradigm for the

American Cinematographer



American Cinematographer - November 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - November 2013

Contents
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - Cover1
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 1
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 2
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 3
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 4
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - Contents
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 6
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 7
American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 8
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American Cinematographer - November 2013 - 11
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