By George, Clooney’s embraced virtual production!

The Midnight Sky (in UK cinemas now and from 23 December on UK Netflix), which the film’s director and star pitched to DoP Martin Ruhe as “The Revenant meets Gravity”, is a post-apocalyptic tale of isolation and survival. For interior and extravehicular scenes, the production made extensive use of the latest in virtual set technology.

Iris and Augustine

Playing alongside newcomer Caoilinn Springall‘s Iris, Clooney is Augustine Lofthouse, a grizzled scientist who is racing against time to stop astronaut Sully (Felicity Jones) and her colleagues onboard the Aether from returning to earth following a mysterious global catastrophe. The action, which takes place in 2060, moves between a particularly inhospitable Arctic wasteland and a spacecraft that was 3D printed in space.

“A lot of the space sequences were designed with a virtual camera. I would go into a meeting room with the virtual camera and an iPad and I’d say ‘give me a 58mm’ or ‘I want to be at this scale’ and I could immediately see an animated render of the spaceship interior and exterior and models of our actors. This pre-vizualisation would inform production design or stunts for the wirework or for myself and George it helped us judge the timing and blocking of the scene. Rather than being led by the limits of technology we were using technology as a tool to help craft the scene.”

Martin Ruhe, DoP, The Midnight Sky

The exterior Arctic sequences were shot on an Icelandic glacier. Arctic and spacecraft interiors, the latter both with and without gravity, and space exteriors were filmed a virtual set at Shepperton Studios. VFX on the film were by Framestoore and ILM.