Friday, 14 November 2014


Even if you're not a science fiction fan, I bet you can complete that heading.

There seems to have been a space theme to the past seven days. It all started with Christopher Nolan's latest film, Interstellar.

Without spoiling it for those who have not seen it yet, it's basically about mankind in the future trying to find a way to save the human race from extinction by finding another planet to live on. One can't help but be cynical and think we'll just end up trashing that one as well.

Anyway, I was blown away by how real they made everything in space look. A while back I saw the Sandra Bullock film, Gravity, and that was impressive, but Interstellar is even more so. In my way of watching films I sat there trying to pick apart how they would have achieved some of the shots. To me it was obvious they had built large models and filmed them against a green screen, a method that allows the editor to remove the green portion of the image later and replace it with anything they want.

Not on the same scale as Christopher Nolan's multi million dollar, three-hour epic (yes, it is that long!), last Saturday saw me filming against a green screen too, with my teenage group of students at the film academy. It was their day, after seven weeks of tuition, to direct, film and star in a music video for Christmas. I'm not sure they quite got the concept of green screen, but we all had great fun. Interestingly the most daunting part of it for them was behind the camera, operating the equipment and using the correct terminology. There were no shy actors among them when they were asked to perform in front of camera. The past few days have seen me editing their efforts, and like most film making it is clear not all went according to plan. They will now have to film replacement scenes in two weeks time, something we call "pick-ups".

Without a green screen in sight, we come to Hubble. As you will have read last week I have newly installed a blu ray player and giant screen, and it has just had it's grand launch with the one-hour documentary, Hubble, complete in 3D. To make the film they had sent an IMAX 3D camera up into space on board shuttle Atlantis in May 2009, the last ever visit to the giant space telescope. The documentary, narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, was stunning, and though not a fan in any way shape or form of 3D, this was the exception. I felt as if I were actually there and could have handed the astronauts the spanners.

And finally, the Rosetta spacecraft and the lander Philae. Launched just before my 41st birthday in 2004, it made it's way out into the solar system by a series of "sling shots" round our solar system, including Earth three times, to accelerate it into position to rendezvous with a large asteroid.  In late September this year, having been watching the approaching asteroid 67P for over 24 million miles, it started manoeuvres to catch up with the lump of rock and go into orbit around it, 19 miles above the surface. Incredibly, this week it launched a little lander, called Philae, onto its 4km wide surface, and at 4pm GMT on Wednesday 12 November 2014, something man made landed on an asteroid, 300 million miles away and four and a half billion years old, roughly the same age as Earth itself.

It had a bumpy landing, ending up on its side, but still managed to send back valuable data. Today it started drilling into the surface! For the next year the mothership spacecraft, Rosetta, will stay alongside the asteroid, gathering more data as it gets closer to our sun, shedding some of it's ice and water. Is it just me or does it blow your mind what mankind has achieved with this spectacular mission?

That little lander has certainly gone "where no man has gone before".

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