Oscar-nominated Neil Corbould on supervising Gravity's special effects

Clooney and Bullock's real bodies were not shown in space, Corbould reveals

Gravity special effects supervisor Neil Corbould, has been nominated for an Academy Award and a Bafta in the Best Visual Effects category this year – along with Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence and David Shirk.

His input was crucial in translating Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron’s sometimes impossible vision onto the big screen. “We have been asked many times: did we go into space to film any of the scenes?” says Corbould, who has just finished working on Ridley Scott’s Exodus, which stars Christian Bale as Moses.

“We wanted people to feel like they were in space or watching NASA footage. I think we achieved that.”

In pre-production meetings with Cuaron it became apparent that the way forward was to use computer-generated effects most of the time.

“But to start with, Alfonso wanted us to build a massive set that could spin and rotate so that the action could be filmed physically. But that would have cost a fortune – and also the results would not have been so good. The most magical aspect of Gravity is the mixing of computer-generated effects seamlessly with some real effects,” says Corbould.

When Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were filming Gravity, they were placed in specially constructed mechanical rigs, made by Corbould, to turn and twist their bodies in different angles before the computer-generated imagery was added. “It was a combination of the camera move and the rig move that achieved the floating effect,” says Corbould. “Ninety per cent of the time they were in a harness – or sometimes they sat strapped to a bicycle seat that was attached to a turn-table. They spent four or five demanding hours at a time in these rigs.”

When Bullock and Clooney are shown out in space, the only real part of them is their faces, says Corbould – the rest is computer-generated. But when Bullock is in the main spaceship, she wore a carbon-fibre harness attached to 12 wires, so the production team could float her around and show off her body when she took off her spacesuit. “She was put in a rig that was a basic replica of the spaceship. The interior was made of cardboard and polystyrene, just to give the actors a bit of geography.”

Corbould started his career as a special-effects runner on Superman in 1978. “In those days we used lots of miniatures to create large scale destruction; these days, it’s more computer-generated.”

He won his first Oscar in 2001 for Ridley Scott’s Gladiator and three Bafta awards for The Fifth Element, Saving Private Ryan and The Day After Tomorrow.

“When I eventually saw the whole of Gravity, it blew me away,” says Corbould. “Before then, I only saw it in its raw form, with actors spinning around in a rig.”

‘Gravity’ is out on Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray on 3 March

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style