Vizov: A Movie Set in Space and the Problems When You’re Not There…

Vizov: A Movie Set in Space and the Problems When You’re Not There…

Astronauts and cosmonauts have always been moviegoers. Everyone has seen the thousands of photos and videos they’ve created in space. However, the first feature film featuring real “space” scenes has just been released. The Russian feature film “The Challenge” should score record receipts.

The film is called in Russian “Vesuvius“, meaning “the challenge“in French and”the challengein English.

Especially for director Le Défi Klim Shipenko (also took on the role of photographer and lighting technician) and actress Yulia Peresild (who is also an impromptu makeup artist) spent nearly two weeks aboard the International Space Station, where they acted out key scenes from the script.

In the story, a simple surgeon with no real training must go to the International Space Station to save the life of an astronaut.

Was it really necessary to go that far? Movies about space have already been made on Earth. And good movies too.

Weightlessness couldn’t be more real

Any director will tell you that weightlessness is extremely difficult to reproduce in gravitational conditions. However, of course this is possible. An interesting precedent is the classic Soviet science fiction Through blackberries to the stars (1980), which became a huge success. One of the space scenes was filmed in a pool filled with water, and divers took on the roles of astronauts in futuristic suits. The main disadvantage of this method is the inevitability of air bubbles emitted by the diver. However, here again a solution was found: the actors were filmed upside down, and then the bubbles “descended” and were no longer visible.

Of course, filmmakers often use not divers, but real astronauts. They use a private plane for weightless training. It works like this: the pilot first points sharply upward, then equally sharply descends, and a state of weightlessness happens on the plane. However, it only lasts 25-30 seconds, no more. Thus, to shoot four hours of directors pictures Apollo 13 (1995) had to make 612 “parabolas” of this kind.

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A less expensive, but no less complex, version involves suspending the actors using a complex system of cables and pulleys, which are then cleared during post-production. Also in this way, the famous gravity (2013).

Of course, it is very difficult to achieve a complete illusion in this way – it takes a lot of practice before the actor finds the right balance and is comfortable. Be that as it may, no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to achieve complete freedom of the actor in the frame – movie astronauts, as a rule, after performing a few jumps, find a point of support and rest.

The laws of physics severely limit the camera angle – camera operators don’t have many options when filming an actor suspended from cables. This is possible from the front, but from above or from the side there is a problem. Editing on the image, that is, successively changing the angle without editing, is particularly difficult in this type of scene. Prior to the challenge, Cuarón was the only one who was able to do this at Gravity.

For Challenge Makers, all of these restrictions are a thing of the past. The International Space Station was filmed in 12 takes, for a grand total of the material photographed 78 hours 21 minutes. The final film is over an hour long and we see Youlia Peressild from the most unimaginable angles, including as she flies past the orbital station without any grip. Not only her, but the photographer herself moves freely. Perhaps no other space movie has given us such choreography, such effect of presence.

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And all this without The Challenge costs much more than the “usual” films about weightlessness. The declared budget is less than 1 billion rubles (about 11.2 million euros).

from the life of poetry

Unruly hair, even in this age of computing ingenuity, is also a major problem. Even perfectionist Christopher Nolan has had trouble with them. One of his few technical quirks in Inception appears in the zero-gravity scene — Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character moves on walls more dramatically than Spider-Man, but his hair is straight like nothing. He wasn’t.

However, this is not shocking, because he had a very short cut and was styled neatly. Drawing long hair floating in weightlessness realistically is a very time consuming task. This is why female astronauts in movies usually have their hair swept back or pulled back into a tight bun.

In Challenge, this problem is solved by space itself. No visual effects needed – Peressild’s hair has a life of its own and creates amazing believability.

Oddly enough, another traditional space problem also solved itself. The “rebellious” hair that stands up, it’s comical! However, the vast majority of space movies are exciting, and an unnecessary gag can easily kill the suspense. At Le Défi, Youlia Peressild’s spatial hairstyle is so organic and gets used so quickly that there is no gender disharmony. On the contrary, the feeling of authenticity only increases the tension.

distant planets light

The challenge proves that we have the wrong idea about space. We’re already used to sightings of the International Space Station, whether on TV news or in documentaries. However, it turns out that the station was photographed on a professional RED camera by a professional photographer – Chipenko went to film school in California and learned the craft along with directing – the station looks a little different.

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Sure, it’s stunningly cool and beautiful, but it’s not quite as high-tech and futuristic as we’re used to seeing it. On the other hand, it is also not as depraved as in films like disaster.

It also turns out that we have no idea what color and light really exist in space. Chipenko used three LED light panels in orbit, but the ever-changing light coming from the vents made its adjustments, illuminating Peressild’s face first red, then blue, then green. Such aesthetic “mistakes” cannot be planned on the ground.

Today, at a time when everything can be drawn on a computer, the world of blockbuster cinema is curiously returning to real special effects.

The most striking example is the director’s next film Christopher NolanAnd Oppenheimerin which a nuclear explosion is simulated without the aid of graphics.

The challenge fits perfectly with this trend: the authentic side of the work is more functional than the computer-generated one. Synthetic special effects, of course, are also present in the film, especially the spacewalk scene in open space. It was clear that the writers hoped to film her live. However, it looks like it will be for the next time.

Nikolai KornatskyRussia next

source: Russia next; Image credits: Klim Chipenko / Roscosmos / Pervy Kanal

Yulia Peresild.

Julia Peresild on the movie poster.

Yulia Peresild.

Yulia Peresild on the International Space Station.

The control room.. was built from scratch for the ground scenes.

The control room.. was built from scratch for the ground scenes. Cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov really liked it on the International Space Station. He is one of the three Russian cosmonauts who starred in the film: Anton Shkapelrov, Pyotr Dobrov and Oleg Novitsky.

Yulia Peresild and Milos Pekovic, space surgeons.

Yulia Peresild and Milos Pekovic, space surgeons.

Yulia Peresild and her poetry in space.

Yulia Peresild and her poetry in space.

Milos Bekovic.

Miloš Pekovic wearing the Sokol space suit.

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