'Gravity' Oscar buzz showcases UK visual effects industry

Tue Jan 28, 2014 8:12am EST
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By Julia Fioretti

LONDON (Reuters) - Some viewers love Alfonso Cuaron's space thriller "Gravity" and others think it pales in comparison with classics like Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey", but pretty much anyone who has seen it agrees the visual effects are stunning.

While the film was financed and produced in the United States, the studio that created the visual effects - which have been nominated for an Academy Award - is British, adding to the accolades UK firms have accumulated in the field.

"It's not a movie where we're putting visual effects into a film," said Tim Webber, who was visual effects supervisor for "Gravity". "It's a movie that is created using visual effects from the ground up."

British talent was propelled into the industry limelight by the "Harry Potter" series, which involved UK companies Cinesite, Double Negative and Framestore, where Webber is director of visual effects.

"The Harry Potter series was a sort of backbone but the industry grew up to be quite significant around it and by the time it ended there was plenty of other work going through London to keep it going," Webber said in an interview.

In "Gravity", which has been nominated for a total of 10 Oscars, producers had to contend with the challenges posed by a film set entirely in space as well as replicating the look and feel of weightlessness in a 3D movie environment.

"Gravity affects every tiny movement," Webber said.

To ensure the film looked as realistic as possible, "an awful lot" of the film had to be created on the computer and shots of the actors' faces would then be added in, meaning the lighting had to be perfect, Webber said.   Continued...

Actor and director Ben Affleck (R) presents Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron with the Feature Film award for "Gravity" during the 66th annual Directors Guild of America Awards in Beverly Hills, California January 25, 2014. REUTERS/Gus Ruelas