First Man Ryan Gosling Neil Armstrong.JPG

First Man had to create a new filmmaking technique in order to transport viewers back in time

Contributed by
Oct 16, 2018

Director Damien Chazelle's Apollo 11 biopic, First Man, really pulled out all the stops when it came to feats of technical wizardry, which combined classic techniques of filmmaking with never-before-seen tricks.

In a new featurette posted by The Los Angeles Times, Chazelle and other key members of the production crew explain how they strived to make the space flight sequences feel authentic and real not just for the actors, but for the audience as well.

"To me, everything is about how handmade and analog this mission really was," the director says in the video. "We're telling a story about a time when digital technology did not exist. We're definitely trying to do as much in-camera as possible and really rely on practical effects."

For one thing, the actors were never emoting off a green screen. Instead, massive LED screens were used, depicting images of the Earth and surface of the moon. These images pervaded the windows of the recreated rockets and lunar modules, furthering that utter sense of realism. There's also the fact that production utilized actual '60-era NASA equipment for even more authenticity.

But it didn't stop there. According to Special Effects Supervisor J.D. Schwalm, a brand-new form of motion tracking was created specifically for the film, so that faraway objects like the Earth would "react" accordingly in conjunction with the movements of a traveling spacecraft.

"We designed a system that synchronizes the video of the LED wall to our motion base," he says. "We can move the motion base around at any orientation that we want and the Earth will always track in the window. That's something that's never been done before."

First Man is out now in theaters nationwide.


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