The VFX behind First Man

Brand new series of behind the scenes material released!

We’re thrilled to share a series of never-before-seen exclusive behind the scenes content and VFX breakdown footage from the making of First Man.

In this video series, DNEG’s Oscar-winning VFX Supervisor Paul Lambert and his brilliant VFX team take you behind the scenes as they explain how they helped director Damien Chazelle realise his vision for the epic biopic about legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong, the First Man to walk on the Moon.

Over the next two weeks, we are releasing five reels that feature all aspects of the visual effects techniques used for the movie’s production.

Discover how the First Man crew created subtle effects to achieve the movie’s cinéma vérité feel by using a blend of visual effects, special effects, NASA archival footage and scaled models to create an authentic 1960’s documentary look.

Pushing the boundaries of in-camera shooting

Damien’s vision for First Man’s stunning flight scenes, both before and during the Apollo 11 mission, were achieved by pushing the boundaries of in-camera shooting.  The spacecraft were shot against a giant LED screen, enhancing the realism with light from outside the cockpit subtly reflecting off glass dials and other shiny surfaces, a feature of lighting that is impossible to achieve using green screen.

For all the scenes involving spacecraft, the First Man team followed a simple philosophy; depending on the size of the craft in frame they designed the shots to use either full-scale practical models, scaled miniatures or full CG asset versions.

Watch ‘The VFX of First Man’ series below to hear more from the show’s VFX Supervisors.


Award-winning and Oscar-nominated VFX

First Man is nominated in the ‘Visual Effects’ category for the 91stAcademy Awards , which takes place on February 24th. Recently the show won a Visual Effects Society (VES) Award in the ‘Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal Feature’ category. It was also nominated for 2019’s BAFTA Award and was awarded several Critics’ Awards worldwide, since its release in October 2018.

The VFX behind First Man

Part 1: The VFX of First Man – Redefining Shooting In-Camera
With Paul Lambert, Overall VFX Supervisor

Academy Award-winning VFX Supervisor Paul Lambert (Blade Runner 2049) supervised all the VFX work on First Man with DNEG as the lead VFX partner. In the first of five videos, Paul gives a brief overview about First Man’s diverse VFX.


Part 2: The VFX of First Man – Out of this World – the Subtle VFX Magic behind First Man
With Tristan Myles, DNEG DFX Supervisor
Academy Award-nominated DFX Supervisor Tristan Myles shares details on the movie’s truly out-of-this-world visual effects. He delves into the many subtle VFX techniques used. This includes explaining how DNEG created 90 minutes of 4K full 360 degree spherical images for the gigantic LED screen, the climactic lunar sequence and how it was shot with 70mm IMAX cameras.


Part 3: The VFX of First Man – Mission Accomplished – the Production of an Epic Biopic
With Michelle Eisenreich, DNEG VFX Producer
Hear how Academy Award-winning VFX Producer Michelle Eisenreich (Blade Runner 2049) formed a team of highly talented artists and production members to accomplish Damien Chazelle’s unique vision of Neil Armstrong’s biopic. She also shares her secret for creating an award-winning production team.


Part 4: The VFX of First Man – Creating CG Content for an already Lit Environment On Set
With Frederik Lillelund, DNEG CG Supervisor
Under the supervision of CG Supervisor Frederik Lillelund, the CG team created an abundance of CG content for the massive 10m tall, 18m wide, 180-degree LED screen that wrapped around the set. Frederik and his team made sure that workflows between the on-set team and the VFX artists were as efficient and smoothly as possible.




Part 5: The VFX of First Man – A Typical Day On Set for Compositing & Never-Before-Seen NASA Archival Footage
With Peter Farkas, DNEG 2D Compositing Supervisor & Joel Delle-Vergin, DNEG Compositing Lead

Unusually for a compositor, DNEG Compositing Lead Joel Delle-Vergin spent a few weeks on the set of First Man to deliver any updates to footage played on the giant LED screen. Watch him share a typical day on-set and how he collaborated with his Compositing team back in DNEG’s Vancouver office on a daily basis.

Searching through NASA resources, the team uncovered a part of history that most people will never get to see. They ended up using some archival footage shot on obsolete 70mm military stock, which they digitally cleaned up by removing grain, flicker and any other archival artefacts.

In the final clip of the series, Joel and Peter focus on the famous Saturn 5 launch and how their team covered all aspects of compositing, from its birth to completion – not only mixing old and new techniques, but also creating and designing the shots in composite.






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