100 Years of Space Scenes Evolution: Behind The Scenes How shooting mock space scenes changed since the early days of film to the high tehc CGI world of today

The YouTube channel Insider published another one of its fascinating looks at the history of motion pictures and this time around a look behind the scenes of how space movies were shot since the early days of motion pictures and up until the high tech computer-generated special effects of the 21 century.

Humble beginnings

The 1902′ film “A Trip to the Moon” used s technique called substitution splice to combine shots where a spaceship hits the “moon” in the eye. By today’s standards, this might look silly but it was the best technology had to offer back in those days.

Jumping forward around half a century and in the 1950’s film “Destination Moon” Holywood introduced a new technique for the first time that is still in use today – wires. Using wires allowed actors to look as if they are floating in the air as if they were in space.

Of course, during those early days, they still had lots of limitations and in any case that a  cable became visible in the shot they had to re-shoot the entire scene (something that would take a novice After effects editor a few minutes to remove with today’s technology).

New grounds in space filming

In the 1968 movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” Stanley Kubrick broke new ground where he built a centrifuge and a special camera rig to capture the spaceship movement as it spins.

Nine years later George Lucas used motion-control cameras on his epic “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” to record his groundbreaking space fights.

Moving forward to the 1990s the blockbuster “Apollo 13” was not a fictional movie (for the most part) and so it required more realistic zero-G movements. Luckily the technology matured enough at this point and Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton actually flew inside a NASA astronaut training aircraft that simulates zero-G and some of the parts were shot in this environment for the first time.

The age of CGI

As many other things changed in motion pictures with the introduction of Computer-Generated Imagery so did space movies and the 2000s saw a huge boost in what CGI could achieve with more powerful computers and more advanced software.

There are numerous examples from the past two decades of CGI-assisted space scenes. Three that were mentioned in this video are Gravity (from 2013), First Man (from 2018), and more recently The Midnight Sky (from 2020). In these movies not only CGI was used but also LED projection to help make weightless movement and the way stars and light in outer space look and feel more realistic.

As always, you can find many more behind-the-scenes videos on the BTS section here on LensVid as well as previous videos published by Insider about the behind-the-scenes look of making Hollywood movies.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of LensVid.com. He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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