A large part of the 90-minute film, Gravity, involved CGI. This already posed quite a challenge for the visual effects team, Rising Sun Pictures. One of the most intense scenes is the re-entry of the Chinese space station after being hit by passing debris. Making things even harder was the fact that nobody really knows what it would look like when such a large amount of debris crashes back to earth.
RSP co-founder and supervisor for visual effects on the project says “We all have an idea of what happens to a spacecraft as it enters the atmosphere, but no one has witnessed such an event from the outside at close proximity.”
RSP released some footage on how it went about creating the event, taking into account all the data available in producing something scientifically plausible. Each of the individual parts of the Tiangong Station were modelled separately in order for the physics model to illustrate differences in how they react. Some particles would simply crumple, while others would burn up more spectacularly forming plasma waves around certain parts. It took the team of specialists more than a year to complete the single 270 second sequence of events.