March 17, 2011

A photographic (non-CGI) fly-by of Saturn

The IMAX film “Outside In” is produced from “hundreds of thousands of still photos” taken by the Cassini orbiter. I have a hard time believing that the footage is real, but I’m hardly an expert. Check it out:

The filmmaking is a non-profit effort being supported by individuals & a few companies. [Via]

Update: See comments for some technical details from the filmmaker & others.

Posted by John Nack at 8:42 AM on March 17, 2011


  • David — 9:11 AM on March 17, 2011

    This is great, but it’s not really “no cgi.” It depends on how you define cgi. I thought from the description that someone had taken consecutive frames from Cassini and made an incredible animation out of it. But no. Each sequence started with a single image – an actual photo, true – and animated it in a computer to appear 3D. So while it’s not technically a 3D-rendered image in the traditional way we think of computer animation, it seems to me that it’s something akin to texture mapping on a 3D object. So all the pixels come from the original photo, but it’s still computer animation.

    Or maybe I misunderstand? Watch this explanation from the director, and tell me:

    • imajez — 1:22 PM on March 17, 2011

      David the distinction as far as I see is that CGI is computer generated imagery.
      This is computer manipulated imagery in the same way my photos are still photos and not CGI even if I put them through Photoshop/LR or make them into a fancy slides show with Premiere/AfterEffects

  • danny — 9:12 AM on March 17, 2011

    its not real footage… its real photos with the camera move in AE

  • Todd Kopriva — 10:03 AM on March 17, 2011

    See this page for some details about how After Effects CS5 made this movie possible:

  • Heitor Jobim — 6:31 PM on March 17, 2011

    “That’s no moon. It’s a space station.”

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  • Stephen van Vuuren — 10:44 AM on March 18, 2011

    This is the filmmaker here. Thanks so much for posting this. Yes, the “CGI” has been debated. It’s not 3D CGI as all the pixels are as Cassini photographed – no models, painting, texture mapps, 3D CGI etc. is used. The point of saying that is make sure people understand it’s not a VFX or CGI shot. That being said, I use thousands of layered Photoshop images in AE CS5 in 3D space with a recipe of techniques to maintain the illusion of motion and depth without visually harming the original photographs.

    This project is a great plug for 64-bit Photoshop & After Effects. I do all the work in 32-bit (required for several steps of my technique) and it was impossible in HD much less IMAX until CS5.

    Of course, I’m still looking forward to CS6 as I still need bigger frame buffers :)

    [Thanks for the details & for sharing this interesting project, Stephen. –J.]

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