Recreating the Apollo 13 rocket launch with practical models at home
Winner of multiple Oscars, BAFTAs and SAG awards, Apollo 13 was a pretty epic movie. And with a budget of $52 million it had some pretty spectacular effects, too. Apollo 13 was a mix of model and miniature effects as well as CG and compositing, with one of the most memorable scenes being the launch itself.
DIY filmmaking and effects guru Steve Ramsden wanted to have a go at remaking this scene for himself with the help of a model rocket, some stock footage and Google Earth. Ironically, this was exactly the way the VFX team on the actual movie didn’t want to shoot it, but Steve’s interpretation turned out pretty well.
Like the original movie, Steve used a miniature rocket – a Saturn V. Except where the VFX team working on the film used pyrotechnics for the launch (with a beautifully choreographed edit), Steve used a mixture of stock footage and CG particles in After Effects for the rocket engines. Steve also recreated the landscape using Google Earth.
Steve’s approach is a very homebrew DIY set-up and offers some great tips and techniques for filming your own miniature effects at home. Some of the filming techniques Steve used to create this sequence are quite unconventional and not the way one might typically tackle some of the challenges he faced.
While it might not look quite like the original sequence, Steve’s attempt shows just how far tech has come in the last 25 years that we can produce something this good and this easily at home now without the big budgets movies like Apollo 13 had in the 90s.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.