BU graduates’ out of this world success on VFX for Gravity

Posted on Monday, February 17 2014

Graduates and lecturers from BU’s National Centre for Computer Animation (NCCA) have reached for the stars with their work on the award-winning visual effects for the film Gravity.

The blockbuster, which stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, won in a number of high-profile categories at the 2014 BAFTAs – including Outstanding British Film and Best Visual Effects.

The majority of the film, which is set in space, was created digitally – with the only real-life aspects often just being the two main actors.

London-based effects house Framestore worked on the special effects for the film – with the help of around 40 alumni from BU’s animation and visual effects courses.

BU graduate Sam Salek, who completed the MA in Digital Effects at BU in 2010, worked as a compositor on the film.

“When we started working on it, we all felt that we were working on something very special, yet no-one really anticipated the phenomenon it became,” he said.

He added: “The structure of the Digital Effects course is designed in such a way that by the end of it, you feel you have been through multiple projects and different scenarios, giving you valuable experience that you really appreciate once you start working in the industry.”

But it wasn’t just alumni working on Gravity, current BU staff also played their part. Adam Redford, Senior Practice Fellow in Computer Animation at BU, was a senior texture artist at Framestore.

He worked for around six months on the film, helping to paint some of the interior and exterior sets and props seen floating around in the space modules, like books and personal items.

“It always feels good to see the efforts of hundreds of visual effects artists recognised and praised, whether the films win awards or not,” he said.

“The NCCA gives students a well rounded education in all areas of visual effects and animation, whilst allowing them to focus and specialise in areas they find particularly interesting and rewarding.

“It also gives the students a good grounding in industry standard practices and software, and provides them with access to excellent feedback and mentoring from industry professionals.”

It is not the first time that NCCA alumni have had their work recognised with high-profile awards.

More than 50 graduates and former BU academics worked on the Oscar-winning visual effects for Avatar, while MA Visual Effects graduate Andy Lockley won an Oscar in 2011 for his work on the special effects for Inception.

The NCCA’s contribution to world-leading excellence and pioneering development in computer animation was even recognised with a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in 2012.

Sofronis Efstathiou, Framework Leader for postgraduate visual effects and animation courses at BU, said: “It’s fantastic to see Gravity enjoying such success at the BAFTAs, and we’re really proud of the part that Bournemouth has played in the film’s creation.

“Framestore has an outpost studio across the road from BU and enjoys long-standing links to the NCCA.

“Many of our graduates from both the undergraduate and postgraduate courses are employed at all levels of the company, from Junior Artists to Supervisors, and a great many of our alumni were involved in bringing Gravity’s extraordinary visuals to the screen.”

Gravity has also been nominated for a number of prestigious awards – including Best Picture and Best Visual Effects – for this year’s Oscars.

Sofronis added: “The NCCA would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the entire Framestore team and wish them the very best of luck for the upcoming Oscars. Bournemouth will be watching!”