The studio’s work included digital set extensions, photorealistic CG buildings, a CG car, CG stunts, CG face replacements, digital matte paintings, and simulations. Under the direction of Yuval Levy, Gravity’s digital effects supervisor, and Karin Levinson, VP of features & television, the team provided director Brett Ratner and VFX supervisor Mark Russell with a series of pre-visualized sequences and style frames that illustrated the most climactic scenes of the film. These previs scenes became the blueprint for the shooting of the heist sequences.
“Working with Gravity from the beginning on the previs gave us a head start in making these sequences work down the road,” Russell explains. “They had a very early understanding of what Brett and I were after, and they were able to build on that even before the shooting began.”
The majority of Gravity’s visual-effects work focused on the sequences involving the heist in which characters played by Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and Matthew Broderick steal a classic Ferrari from a corrupt billionaire’s penthouse apartment through an exterior window on the 65th floor. Prior to the actual heist sequence, Gravity created a complex series of green-screen window comps, so that views of Manhattan as seen from inside the penthouse and another of The Tower’s most opulent apartments would be authentic.
The visual-effects team digitally re-created a section of Manhattan at Columbus Circle to provide the sweeping 220-degree backdrops that may be seen from two apartments. Additionally, Gravity created a photorealistic CG Tower, matching the Trump International Hotel & Tower, to supplement the partially constructed façade that was built on a NY soundstage. Employing a combination of live- action plates, digital imagery and CG elements, Gravity placed the action of the film at the top of New York’s most expensive real estate all during the Thanksgiving Day Parade. Gravity also created a number of helicopter POV shots entirely in CG to tie the scenes together.
Gravity’s digital effects supervisor Yuval Levy adds, “Some of our most complex work on the film was creating a photoreal CG Ferrari and CG doubles for Stiller and Murphy, which were seen during a CG ‘stunt’ as the car is being lowered down the side of The Tower. Our visual-effects team also created an overhead point of view of the heist as though observed from a helicopter during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We blended scenes from the actual parade along with both CG and stunt elements, which were shot on the stage. This allowed us to create a view of the heist and the parade as they would appear if actually witnessed from above.”