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Oscars glory for Kingston graduate

A Kingston graduate tastes Oscars success for his work on film Gravity

gravity film still outer space

Image source: Digital Trends

A Kingston University graduate celebrates success as Gravity, the new thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, has walked away with seven Oscars at this year’s awards. 

Sam Salek, who completed his Bachelor Degree in Media Technology at Kingston University before pursuing an MA in Digital Effects at Bournemouth University, lead the stereo conversion process on the film with London-based visual effects company Frameworks. Gravity was the longest project he has ever worked on.

‘While working on it, we all felt that we’re working on something very special,’ he told The Guardian. ‘It’s not very common to see this level of enthusiasm on every level to the very end of a project, and that alone makes Gravity very memorable for me.’

Drawing on his previous work on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows II, Salek lead a number of production teams to manage the creation and refinement of the film’s arresting visuals. A significant number of other UK graduates from the University of Bournemouth were also in the production teams.

The film, winning awards for both best visual effects and best editing, was initially designed to be shot in 3D. Due to complexities involved in this unique way of filming, the production process had to be reconfigured from its early stages; this is where Salek came in....

‘I had to come up with a solution that could be easily adopted by a large number of artists and shots,’ he explains. ‘I designed a few tools for creating and reviewing depth maps...what is essentially the foundation of post conversion process.’

A depth map is an image channel that relays an object’s perceived depth from a given viewpoint. In other words, it is what is responsible for an object being seen as 3D on film. In the specially-created position of Stereo Setup Supervisor, Salek designed tools to create and review depth maps, as well as overseeing the fine-tuning imaging processes involved in final production stages.

This is not the first time Kingston University’s prowess in realms of media and technology has seen the spotlight. Musical group Goldfrapp have recently used the state-of-the-art Phantom HD Gold camera in the University’s Knight’s Park campus to film the performative cinema event Tale of Us. Director Lisa Gunning worked directly with Kingston’s senior technician Kenny Evans to create a series of slow-motion sequences to be broadcast at the live event.

‘The studio was a joy to work in and I’m absolutely thrilled with the results,’ Gunning told the university. ‘The students at Kingston are very fortunate to have such magnificent resources to work with.’ The Phantom HD Gold ultra-slow motion camera is one of only 150 worldwide, and is capable of shooting up to 1,000 frames per second.

But for Sam Salek, it’s right back to work.

‘It’s business as usual, and we’re back to creating more beautiful images.’ He will next work on the upcoming Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy.

Now that you’re inspired to see what UK institutions are all about, why not browse Computer Animation courses in the UK now?


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About Author

gravity film still outer space

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.