How the ‘Midnight Sky’ VFX team pulled off the film’s most shocking scene

Animating astronauts—and blood—in space.

In part 1 of befores & afters’ coverage of Netflix film The Midnight Sky, we looked at the LED wall filmmaking side and the spacecraft and space-walking sides of the movie.

Now we dive into—spoiler alert—the scene in which Maya (Tiffany Boone) and her fellow astronauts are hit by a meteor strike. Maya realizes only after returning to the ship that she has been injured, resulting in zero-G blood droplets floating around her and the others in the airlock.

Here, Netflix visual effects supervisor Matt Kasmir and Framestore visual effects supervisor Chris Lawrence share with befores & afters how that sequence was achieved, including some moments that had completely CG actors.

Original plate. Courtesy Netflix
CG blood added.

Matt Kasmir: There were so many challenges to start with on that scene. We were a lot tighter than we initially thought so we were rebuilding every shot including rebuilding all of the characters, at least as space suits. We were constantly rotating the camera throughout the sequence and the blood we knew had to be special, but we had to wait for all of these other pieces to be semi-locked before we could start.

The blood almost became—I’ve likened it to a selection of different creatures—each large blood drop had its own character and personality. And even though there was a lot of procedural kind of animation there, we would direct each piece of blood to move and be beautiful.

Everybody has an idea of what liquid looks like in space from the few videos we’ve seen from NASA, but this had to be beautiful. It couldn’t be Alien-esque, so it couldn’t go too fast, it couldn’t cover faces, it couldn’t stick to people, and these were prerequisites from George.

It just had to be beautiful and almost like a ballet around dying Maya. And yeah, it just worked. It was a combination of some really, really lovely fluid dynamics and then physically animating hero bits of blood within those situations.

Original plate.
Final shot with CG blood and set extensions.

Chris Lawrence: Just off the back of that, there’s one shot where Maya’s first brought into the airlock and strapped down, and it’s got the three of them. And if you get a chance to go back and re-look at it, the entire shot is CG, all three of their faces.

To me, that is one of probably better shots I’ve created or worked on in my entire life. The fact that no one would look at that and assume—they would know we did something, maybe removed wires—but no one would look at that and say, ‘This is entirely CG.’

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