Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Moon Walk


I have a project coming up where I have to shoot a spaceman walking on the surface of the moon. It is a series of wide composite shots on green and close ups of the space helmet and hands. We have a section of moon surface, but the sky will be added. I am planning on a single source, maybe 20K, and then a small bit of bounce fill. Has anyone done moon walks (not the dance) and maybe have any tricks to add or concerns to watch for. I'm trying to find some articles on "From the Earth to the Moon". Just thought I would tap the throbbing brain of CML before we shoot.

Mike Gillis

Hello Mike/All:

Living in Houston, we get a fair amount of Space projects that come through. Everyone has their own unique way of interpreting the issue, but some basics to take into consideration are:

- Over-cranking/slow motion. Depending on the shot, anywhere from 48fps to 120fps.
- Particulate in the air/atmosphere. The moon has very loose soil and low
  gravity. Easy to kick up a dusty atmosphere.
- High contrast lighting ratio. The moon's surface is grey, not white. Don't overfill the scene.
- Some sort of halation filter to bloom the whites of the suits a bit on your key side.
- Dirty down your spacesuits, who stays clean on the moon?
- Your biggest concern will be reflection in the astronaut's plexi face
   mask. Lots of ways to address the issue in pre-pro, but once you are on set it can be a real nightmare.     

- Address it with your costume designer now, before it becomes an issue.
- Also get a portable cooling unit for your astronaut, those suits get real hot, real fast. MAKE them sit down  unless they are on set, acting. Keep them hydrated and be prepared to dress them in MAG's, unless the suit is an easy on, easy off.
- If you have not seen it, I strongly recommend a viewing of "Moon", Besides Sam Rockwell's spectacular performance, it has some terrific visuals for what you are looking for. Best wishes and remember, In space, no one can hear you scream...


John Sheeren
Houston, Texas

>>If you have not seen it, I strongly recommend a viewing of "Moon"

Agreed. Albeit "Moon" is a tad slow at times for my taste the moonscapes and exterior work are very good and very reminiscent of 2001. It's been a while since I've seen it but I think there was a lot of practical model work on the show.

Tom McDonnell
Los Angeles, CA
New Orleans, LA

One brute. Contrastiest film stock you have. I think you want to skip the fill because you're already going to get a little detail in the shadows just from stray light off the surface and the room.

The most realistic moon scenes I ever saw were in the film "Moon." Better than 2001 (although nowhere near as sharp).

Scott Dorsey
Kludge Audio
Williamsburg, VA.

>>I have a project coming up where I have to shoot a spaceman walking on the surface of the moon.

We determined, on "Magnificent Desolation-Walking on the Moon 3D", that 58 frames per second capture speed (film) of our actor in the full moon suit on the surface of the moon looked pretty good played back normal (24FPS). Of course now I think Tim and his digital magic would make it easier.

Wayne Baker
been to the moon
stage 27, Sony
Culver City

I shot many many years ago some low budget moon walk at night and we had great results using grey cement powder for the ground. It was spread on our set and we would cover it with a big plastic tarp and walk on the plastic to smooth the cement powder and give it some shape at the same time. Then one single source and no fill.... And slow mo of course.

Denis Lenoir, AFC ASC
Los Angeles

Didn't "From Earth to the Moon" tie helium balloons to the actors in spacesuits to get a more realistic bounce to their walk than just shooting slow-motion? Of course, they had to paint out the wires...

"2001" avoided the single-source sun problem by shooting their excavation scene before the sun rose on the Moon (of course, that was also a story point) -- same goes for the African sequences, they are all in pre-dawn light or in the shadows of the hills and rocks. Clever.

David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles

There's an article in April 1998's American Cinematographer about the filming of "From the Earth to the Moon". To create the intense, contrasty single-source light for the moon set, DP Gale Tattersall aimed 21 10k xenon lights into a water-cooled convex mirror at one end of the soundstage. "The lunar set spanned 36,000 sq. feet, an area 30 times larger than the average soundstage".

Gregory Bennett
DP, Toronto, Canada

That was with weights and wires, BTW. Digital dust is needed.

Tim Sassoon
Santa Monica, CA

Thanks John,

We already planned on over cranking a bit. We are using a different twist on the suit so it is a bit slimmer than the traditional suit and also has a bit of grey in it. The designer added some reflective piping material to the suit also. I think we may add some dust in post.

I did watch some clips from "Moon". That was a great help thanks. I will see if I can get the movie before we shoot.

Thanks again
Mike Gillis

>>The designer added some reflective piping material to the suit also. I think we may add some dust in post.

I should have mentioned non-trivial issue #1 - faceplate replacement, unless you don't mind seeing the camera. "Magnificent Desolation" was stereo (Vistavision to IMAX), and we also created a full CGI reflection scene with CGI astronauts, LEM and rover, rendered in stereo within the CGI faceplates.

Tim Sassoon
Santa Monica, CA

"The best boy, Jimmy "Mac" McCullagh, was testing three of the Xenons. He was maybe 30 to 50 feet away, with goggles on, and his hair started smoking. And that was while working with just three of them!"

- AC, April 1998, "A Trip to the Moon"

Gregory Bennett
DP, Toronto, Canada

I have read the many ideas to light a moonscape but that is not what was asked ... Mike is shooting a spaceman on GREENSCREEN. single source isn’t the complete solution.

Brad Draper
Filmonyx Productions
Woodland Hills, CA

Confusing, but there are TWO different threads. Moon Walk and earth bound Moon Lit night

Mako, Makofoto, S. Pasadena

>>Confusing, but there are TWO different threads. Moon Walk and earth bound Moon Lit night

Moonlight on Earth and sunlight on the Moon being entirely different beasts. I should mention that on "Magnificent Desolation", being in stereo, we added a ton of veiling flare in post to reduce ghosting, because the sky from the Moon in daylight is inky black. Please make sure that your greenscreen properly covers the talent behind. You can't easily switch from green to black mid-torso without there being a visible boundary and a lot of rotoscoping.

Sunlight against the Moon's surface is interesting, too. Because it's made of rock shards, there are some subtle refractive (or diffractive?) colour effects evident in the Apollo photographs.

Tim Sassoon
Santa Monica, CA

Sunlight against the Moon's surface is interesting, too.

If only the technology had existed to haul an IMAX camera up there albeit there is a ton of material shot with Hasselblad. Can you imagine the images...

Tom McDonnell
Los Angeles, CA
New Orleans, LA

The following link provides an explanation of the Purkinje effect:

Very Nice! So that's why we associate cool tones with night lighting effects. Interesting to learn why Red Light works for preserving ones night vision. Thanks ...

Mako, Makofoto Mini & POV Camera Systems, S. Pasadena, CA


Wayne Kennan, ASC said;

>>My favourite example is when the Titanic has submerged and Kate and Leo are holding on to flotsam in the >>North Atlantic on a moonless night...if they wondered why they could see them.

I recall a story about the Hitchcock movie LIFEBOAT. The DP was concerned about the justification of lighting the lifeboat for all the night scenes. Hitchcock said, "They don't wonder where the music comes from. They don't wonder where the light comes from- just light it." (Maybe he said, "They don't ask...)


Ed Myers, Atlanta Dp


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