December 23, 2013

Alfonso Cuarón Takes Us on a Journey Through Each Stage of Production for 'Gravity'

Gravity btsOctober belonged to director Alfonso Cuarón and his groundbreaking film Gravity. Not only did the film receive universal acclaim for its direction, cinematography, and sound, but it went on to be one of the highest grossing film of 2013, taking in over $650 million worldwide at the box office. Though some time has passed, putting a relieving wedge between us and a movie that forced us to reevaluate our lives as we hung, suspended in the darkness of our minds without the heavy gravitational pull of everyday distractions, the work that was done on the film is still as relevant as ever. The Wrap just uploaded a behind the scenes video that takes us on Gravity's journey from script to screen.

Cuarón and his team simply wanted to make a film about adversities. This, however, evolved into a strangely simple, yet complex story about rebirth, or as the director put it, a "journey through adversity." Cuarón explains, the themes of the film, especially "rebirth through adversity", were communicated using visual metaphors -- Ryan in a fetal position in the cabin with the "umbilical cord" wrapped around her, her face's juxtaposition over the Earth, the frog at the end of the film.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film, at least to me, is the cinematography. Five time Academy Award nominee Emmanuel Lubezki, or "Chivo" was the DP on the project, and had to find (and create) ways to photograph distressed astronauts in open space, in zero gravity. The solution to filming characters in zero g was similar to the process used by Bot & Dolly (you may remember their amazing short film Box), creating a set, or "light box", using LED panels, and filming the scenes using cameras attached to robotic arms. Ironically enough, David Heyman, the film's producer, describes Lubezki's cinematography as not feeling "precious", but instead very "natural".

Take a look at the video to get a behind the scenes look at what it was like at each stage of production.

What do you think? Has Gravity inspired your filmmaking? If so, how? Let us know in the comments below!

[via The Wrap]

Your Comment

40 Comments

Bummer, was hoping for something way more in-depth than that!

December 23, 2013 at 10:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

They are way too self-congratulatory ... it was a well made film but I wouldn't cal it groundbreaking ... oooh, a girl can fly ... Mary Martin was hoisted by wires to fly as Peter Pan as far back as the mid-50's ... BFD ...

December 23, 2013 at 11:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

You are such a hater. That movie went from something that I imagined to be a camera test to an experience the likes of which we haven't seen since Kubrick did 2001. That is the unanimous decision for "best 3D movie" to date and you're just sitting here typing your vitriol.

I may be biased because I have never seen Cuaron/Chivo do anything that I didn't love or at least intensely like. But, did you see it in 3D IMAX? I'm the biggest hater of 3D around, but I came away impressed.

December 24, 2013 at 1:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Harry Pray IV

It was definitely an experience but not something I would consider groundbreaking. The cg was ok and mostly seamlessly integrated just like in other films of 2013.

Just because Cuaron discovered that long takes are more pleasant to watch in 3D and you become more immersed in the movie does not make him a genius, it was just a continuation of his style. A long take Cuaron style movie in 3D.

The pseudo-extistential story elements were rather flat. We have seen this kind of struggle of the character with herself and the world that it has become almost a stereotype.

December 24, 2013 at 3:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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FrederikO.

For a film that is basically one person alone in space i was shocked and disappointed at how little existential musing there was...

December 24, 2013 at 11:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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andy

Can't tell if you're being sarcastic...or we saw different films.

December 25, 2013 at 4:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Swissted

You are such a hater. Harry Pray IV -
.
Just because, while praising the general quality of the film, I pointed out that people have been hoisted by wires for many years prior to "gravity" and that doing so was hardly an innovation? Aren't we the sensitive ones ...

December 24, 2013 at 12:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

DLD is right. Maybe the real great solution from this film was the idea to use screens projecting images that would light the faces in a way it end up matching better with the CGI set.

Also it´s a great ride kind of movie. For me the problem with movies that are rides is that hardly I want to take the same ride more than once. So is it more entertainment and less art? Not a problem being entertainment. All great art entertain, but not all entertainment is art. For example, Stalker from Tarkovski or Via Lactea from Bunuel or Wings of desire from Win Wender, these are movies I´ve watched lots of times, and still there is always something new in it. and no people on wires! :P

Also, what makes things move in all the universe is divergence, asymmetry, since the beginning of the universe, and it´s also not that complex to understand, if both side of a equation are equal, commutative, there is little need for movement, life... so he´s not a "hater", he is just divergent to some people point of view (most of the time he´s divergent to my point of view too, and I THANKS him for that!)

December 24, 2013 at 6:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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guto novo

Wait a minute - I was going to agree on Tarkovsky and Wenders and now ... I shall disagree with the disagreement concept.
.
PS. I was hoping for Bullock in a thong, kind of a Miami Beach astronaut.

December 24, 2013 at 7:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

Had no idea that the walls inside the space station were all CG. If that isn't a testament to how good the visual effects are, I don't know what is!

December 23, 2013 at 11:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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John Allegretti

I'm sorry but this is by far one of the worst films in the past decade. I really can't believe people like it so much. Just shows where cinema is going.

December 23, 2013 at 11:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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It's a ride. But, it IS intensely cathartic if you let yourself be immersed in it. You clearly didn't.

December 24, 2013 at 1:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Harry Pray IV

OK, you might not like it as much as others. But worst movie of the decade? If it's not an empty hyperbole, please elaborate how this is one of the worst films of the past decade.

December 24, 2013 at 7:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ralph

Elysium makes Gravity seem like 2001 all over again. That's not saying much. Gravity's screenplay was probably written on tissue paper. Take away the 3D effects and wild Dolby Atmos mix and you're left with practically nothing. It's pseudo-intellectualism.

December 26, 2013 at 11:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Dan H

This movie was just the start (after Avatar) of what I believe will become an industry where everything is done in motion capture alongside conventional RGB capture. RGBZ as someone coined it. The light box is a huge part of it.

I am excited about it. The only sad thing for me is that large sensors may go away as a side effect. When we can capture the depth of a scene as a plate then selectively apply it, it becomes less about your focus puller and more about creative use of depth information. The AC would just create metadata for the edit.

It's also scary that technicians will start to become less of a commodity if you can relight, (completely) reframe, refocus, re-expose everything in post to a very tight tolerance.

Does anyone fear that this movie will cause a shit-storm when or if it wins best cinematography this year?

December 24, 2013 at 1:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Harry Pray IV

Only if some jerk stands up again and slaps himself on the back for something he didn't do.. you know like last time...

December 24, 2013 at 4:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jer

" but it went on to be the highest grossing film of 2013, taking in over $650 million worldwide at the box office."

It is the 6th highest grossing film of 2013 according to boxofficemojo.com

December 24, 2013 at 2:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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FrederikO.

Actually, if you read it again, it says, "...but it went on to be ONE of the highest grossing film of 2013, taking in over $650 million worldwide at the box office.

December 26, 2013 at 6:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gerrick

This amazing movie was partly destroyed not to be made and projected in 4K and 48fps. Seen it in IMAX and didnt like not so black space in low res 2K stuttering all over the big screen in poor 24fps. Anyway even IMAX imagace degradation from hires film picture to very low res 2K picture is one of the biggest disasters ever! And they still charge you premium money for it.

December 24, 2013 at 3:22AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kuk

Dude for a movie like that which has 95% realistic cgi to be made in 4k , 48fps at this point in time is way too damn expensive and close to madness for a vfx studio, trust me, you wont be seeing 4k vfx driven movies in the next 4 years to come.

December 24, 2013 at 4:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Marcus

The wife and I seen it at the Imax it was ok. I would not watch it again.

December 24, 2013 at 8:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Michael Bishop

...the amount of positive feedback from several sites, this including, made me watch it - and I was utterly disappointed. The perception of space has changed for me, but I will never watch it again. Funny that I read more leveled opinions now...

December 24, 2013 at 9:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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mariano

The film has an interesting divergence of opinions on Rotten Tomatoes - 97% of the critics are positive vs. only 85% of the audience. Usually, the audience - who presumably aren't experts in the art of film making and are just there for the experience - grades films higher than the critics. As examples, "Hobbit" is C75% vs. A86%, "Saving Mr Banks" is C81% vs. A91% with Tyler Perry's "Madea Christmas" heading up the point difference with C20%, A76%. But, then again, some filmmakers like the Coen Brothers ride the other way - "Inside Llewyn Davis" C94%, A80%, "No Country for Old men" was C94% vs. A86%, "True Grit" C96% vs. A85%.

December 24, 2013 at 12:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

If you look at the top 15 films for the year on Rotten Tomatoes, they all have a higher percentage of positive critic response than positive audience response.
I think if you look to Rotten Tomatoes for reviews to help you make decisions as to whether or not you might like a film, you can develop a sense of whether or not you tend to side with critics or audience. The top films on that list for the year, do tend to be more serious and heady than traditional blockbuster.
Gravity seemed a bit of both of those in the previews and I was interested. I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

December 25, 2013 at 11:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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FilmerGirl

Yes, that's why I brought up the Coen Brothers but "Gravity" is more of a thrill ride, as has been pointed out, and less a philosophic rumination that tends to win with the snobby critics but leave an average Joe less than ... thrilled. But, hey, it did a crap load of business for a very reasonable investment of ~ $100M. I am sure "Gravity the Sequel - Lost in the Shark Tank" in in the works.

December 25, 2013 at 2:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me why it had to be, with all the other painstakingly authentic details int he film, that when a female astronaut character took off her suit she had a "sexy yoga mom" outfit on instead of, well, what actually goes under a spacesuit?

I'm not saying Sandra isn't fun to look at, but really...come on. Was that necessary?

December 24, 2013 at 2:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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trackofalljades

Diaper, there would've been a diaper under her suit. I prefer this artistic liberty :)

December 24, 2013 at 7:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ralph

I kind of like that seeing the attractiveness of her body seemed buried and part of the story after seeing her already having to go through so much. It wasn't a plot line, it was a "by the way," this lady isn't just tough and brainy, she's just happens to have some killer thighs. But the diaper would have definitely contributed to the rebirth theme after seeing her with the "floating umbilical cord." Could have been interesting? Ha!

December 25, 2013 at 11:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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FilmerGirl

Good stuff can always count on thus site for informative tools

December 24, 2013 at 2:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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jaye

I'm completely surprised by the panning of Gravity from other posters on here. I found the film to be gripping from start to finish and an incredible cinematic experience that captured one of the core elements of what the cinematic art form is supposed to be: escapism.

And while it was definitely a "see it once" sort of film, that doesn't mean it wasn't a spectacularly executed production in its own right. It's not the best film of the year (that was The Great Beauty), but it's FAR from the atrocity other posters are making it out to be here.

December 24, 2013 at 10:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Swissted

agreed

December 26, 2013 at 12:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

I would agree that on both a visual and auditory level it is a masterpiece. But when it comes to characters... well... when your protagonist is just an emotional wreck from the get-go and forgets basic training, logical thinking and just plain olde common sense... I just find it hard when my main character just ups and decides to go passively suicidal when the solutions for survival is staring her in the face.

Oh, and why did clooney continue to fall after sandra broke his momentum? Oh yeah, because it was appropriate for him to die in a story telling perspective. Screw basic physics!

December 26, 2013 at 2:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I find it humorous when people criticize the reactions of fictional human beings during an emergency in a zero-gravity, low-oxygen environment without contact to ground control. I'm SURE you'd be calm, collected and fully logical in such a situation.

If you can't suspend just a tiny bit of belief, I'm afraid 99.99% of cinema just isn't for you.

December 26, 2013 at 5:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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swisteed

Yes. Let me discredit an achievement I've never attempted or accomplished with my dickish contrarian genius knowledge because I have an opinion, which makes me relevant and makes me feel alive.

I'm terrified of these new "it-has-to-be-real"-seeking audiences. The fun of the movies used to be escaping reality. Now everybody wants hyper resolution, at hyper rates.

Am I the only one that thinks that Avengers in a 3D HDTV in high framerates looks like a soap opera with bad costumes and toys? It's horrible. Loved it in theaters, but on a 3D HDTV at nearly 60fps it looked terrible.

December 26, 2013 at 12:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Dave N.

No, you're not the only one. I do think HDTV 60fps look like crap, not cinematic at all.

December 27, 2013 at 11:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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maghoxfr

I saw "Gravity" twice, first in regular 3-D then in IMAX 3-D -- if there was a still bigger, more immersive way to watch it again I would pay (as I did all along) top dollar! I have been scuba diving and have experienced its somewhat virtual "weightlessness" -- "Gravity" presented exactly that experience! As a story, its originality was not on a par with its FX, but it certainly was IMHO a great application of modern tools to an age-old story. And as some have asked above in different ways, can you really say "Fast & Furious 6" was a better movie?

December 26, 2013 at 6:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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LMAO Well Mr. DLD, FREDERIKO and the rest of you naysayers, please by all means show us your Groundbreaking work. We are all just dying to see what you have to offer film/movie lovers. Go Ahead, I'll wait!

December 26, 2013 at 9:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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PayDro

If this movie actually had a compelling story to it and not just thrill after thrill, I honestly think this would have been a successful award winning film. Having said that, although the story may have lacked, the direction was extraordinary, and the special effects were some of the best I've ever seen. I normally hate 3D movies, but I left the theater in awe after seeing it in 3D IMAX. Anyway, had the story been better, perhaps creating an emotional connection between George and Sandra, maybe a little romance they had to keep quiet from NASA, THEN I might have actually felt some emotion when he drifted away into space... especially considering they were pretty much the only two characters in the film, why leave their connection so dry? Regardless, I think we're only scratching the surface of future filmmaking and effects, just hoping we don't continue down the path of visual stimulation over storytelling.

December 27, 2013 at 11:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kyle

I liked Gravity for its simplicity. It's basic-ness...that's not the belittle it...it's a movie stripped down to its core as very few movies do (particularly Hollywood tent pole movies)... It's actually very difficult to do well...it's a minimalist movie.

It's not amazing to me, and it's not totally lame (it seems audience reactions tend to be all or nothing on this one...people tend to love it or think that it's one step above The Room or Plan 9 From Outer Space or something. )

What I can't get over is the 3D and why everyone thought it was spectacular. It was just less offensive than 3D normally is! There is a distinct difference. I think a lot of it is b/c of Cuarón's shooting style...by doing long takes most of the movie's convergence changes are happening in real time...not cutting between one convergence point and another (as is being done in movies that cut between one shot and another with different convergence points). The reason this feels better is because your eyes easing in and out of it instead of jarring you into it...you are doing something utterly unnatural in the first place (converging at any point other than the distance from your eyeballs to the point you're looking at on the screen in front of you where the movie is being projected onto!), so Cuarón's style just helps you ease out of that unnatural state less offensively that the rapid cutting of The Hobbit and Avatar. 3D sucks and is *less* immersive to me because it is inherently more unnatural because it goes against the whole point we have two eyes! (So that we can judge the distances of things better than with one eye because the triangle between our two eyes and the subject lets know the distance that object is from us.). I sucked at middle school geometry, but anyone that didn't can tell you that you can always figure out the height of an isosceles triangle by knowing the length of the base and the length of the two equal sides...basically, from using your eyes for your whole lifetime, your mind "knows" the distance between them (the base of the isosceles triangle), and your eyes know how to focus on things in front of you, so your eyes also "know" the distance away from you that it's focused on...so you know how far away that thing is from you (intuitively)...without having to actually learn the formula of get thing the height of an isosceles triangle! My intuitive subconscious brain knows math better than my conscious brain---I *knew* those teachers were wrong when they told me I would need to know that stuff!).

So anyway, your eyes are more accurate at judging distances up close than far away...if it was far away stuff (where our left and right eyes are converging at almost the same point, meaning they're seeing almost the same thing), out evolution is telling us that 2D vision is essentially good enough...otherwise our eyes would've evolved further away from each other (like on our hands like that character in Pan's Labyrinth)...but...for the most part distant things don't matter as far as depth goes because we are limited by the length of our arms to pick up and use tools and grab branches and jump away from sabre toothed tigers and do all those things... When those threats (the tigers) or destinations (that mountain we're headed to) are far away, we deal with it in an abstract sort of non-immediate, non-threatening sort of way...it's in 2D!...but when it's immediate (close to it), we deal with it in 3D...but the problem is, a movie screen distant is far away from us...so 2D feels fine and appropriate, no matter how much the directors want us to feel that visceral thrill and danger of the immediate threats that happen in every actiony adventure-y tent pole film. I don't want to teach my eyes to converge anywhere besides where things are in reality. If I just worked in front of a computer at a cubicle, maybe it would be fine, but doing steadicam or handheld camera work and motorcycling, my life and livelihood depend on my ability to intuitively trust my eyes to tell me where things are in the real world. Unfortunately, the success of Gravity is just going to prolong this protracted second wave of 3D.

December 29, 2013 at 7:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Daniel Mimura

Shouldn't Alfonso Cuarón shoot the next Superman or Ironman movies? They would improve a lot by using his "lightbox" technology! ;)

January 1, 2014 at 6:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Edward