Occasional Info-Nugget • 3 November 2008 • The SnowBlog

Occasional Info-Nugget


As part of my plundering of the giant invisible underbelly of free video podcasts in the iTunes store I was watching  something about visual effects. A famous effects guy called John Knoll was being interviewed and he was talking about some of the amazing projects he's been involved with. For instance, it was him and his brother who wrote the first version of Photoshop. But the story I was fascinated by was John's attempt to use the old telemetry data for the Apollo moon landings to create a realistic CGI version of the event. I was surprised to learn that all the original NASA recordings of the landings were shot with a camera that took 6 pictures a second. Well, a normal movie camera takes 24 shots a second, so 6 frames-per-second is too slow to look right. So every time it's shown on TV that footage is speeded up. But they can't just speed the sound up and have astronauts sounding like chipmunks, so they chop out a lot of it, leaving the key moments in place. Plus you only see the view from the lander's cameras. If you have photos of the moon, photos of the lander and you know its movements from the telemetry data you could in theory visualise what the landing would have looked like to an imaginary outside camera following the lander down. And that's what John Knoll has been doing in his spare time: making an accurate 'fake' recording of the lander arriving on the moon complete with unabridged audio. Cool. 

He hit a snag, though, when he tried to get hold of the original magnetic tapes containing the data. They'd been reused on other projects. The raw data from the moon landings. Taped over. Amazing. So he ended up working from the paper record of the telemetry. I think the final product ended up as an IMAX movie, but I can't find any good links to it. But here are some hi-res stills. Click on each one to open a window with a larger version. Click on the thumbnail at the top of this post to get a bigger version of that too.

Interior (click for larger version)

Controls  (click for larger version)


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