Graduates from EDA celebrate Oscar winning “Gravity” effects

The University of Kent has offered its congratulations to a number of its graduates who contributed to the ‘Best Visual Effects’ Oscar for the film Gravity.

The graduates, who studied at the School of Engineering and Digital Arts (EDA) for degrees in Multimedia, Technology and Design, all work for London-based visual effects company, Framestore, which produced through ground-breaking post-production techniques almost 80% of what appears on screen during the film.

Liam Russell, Christopher Johnston, Steve Hardy, El Suliman, Adam Ward and Mark Millena all contributed to this work, including realistically inserting Sandra Bullock and George Clooney faces into the ‘universe’ – which in most scenes are the only elements not computer generated.

Graduates James Harmer, Guo Kun Pan, James Parsons, and Bernard Wicksteed are credited for their work on the film. Alongside Liam Russell and El Suliman, these graduates progressed from the undergraduate programme to a Masters in Computer Animation.

Liam Russell, as a Lead Animator, oversaw aspects of character and technical animation, whilst Bernard Wicksteed worked in the tracking team. Christopher Johnston undertook a Technical Director role working on layout and motion capture data, while Mark Millena worked as a Paint and Roto artist which involved a three month shot ‘cutting out’ Sandra Bullock’s body to use in other sections of the film.

The graduates also helped create computer-generated interior scenes and floating props, whilst the characters’ movements, right down to the subtle finger movements as they work on the Hubble Telescope, were all painstakingly hand-animated.

Les Walczowski, Senior Lecturer in Electronic Engineering who taught these students, said: ‘Our courses use the latest technology and are taught in an environment that is intended to model a professional studio’s working practices, which helps our graduates secure jobs at the best film production companies.

‘It’s likely that Gravity will not only go down in history for the number of Oscars it won, but also for its unique way of portraying weightlessness using a combination of live-action, special rigs, computer animation, digital rendering and a light box developed especially for the film. Being involved in this is something I’m sure our graduates will be very proud of.’

You can find out more information and see sections of the work undertaken by Kent graduates at Framestore’s dedicated Gravity page here.