How Netflix Filmed Those Zero-G Scenes in Away

How Netflix Filmed Those Zero-G Scenes in Away
Netflix’s Away features all the car accidents, hospital visits, and near-death encounters necessary for premier melodramatic television. It’s also somehow a pretty intense space drama. And if you’re like us, you probably spent (a little) less time crying on earth and more time trying to figure out just how the heck they recreated space’s zero gravity in—you know—gravity.

So how did the team behind Away film all the space sequences?

Without making VFX artists claw out their brains rendering entire CGI environments (as was mostly done in Gravity), there are really only a couple options: bring the entire cast into orbit where they can film in actual zero gravity (expensive! probably not possible?) or use wires and cables while shooting and digitally erase the lines later.

Away did the latter. Filming in studios in Vancouver, Canada, the team built a real set for the interior shots of the spaceship. For the space scenes, they attached each actor to multiple wires to simulate the zero gravity movement. Of course, while the movement might look zero gravity, operating on the wires didn’t feel like zero gravity, meaning no amount of zero gravity training could help the actors simulate the real thing.

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Ato Essandoh, who plays Kwesi, explained the challenge to

“Let me speak for everyone in the cast—we’re all really good actors I think. But the challenge of acting naturally while you’re hanging upside down, for example, 30 feet up in the air, is an extra level of difficulty that I think we all got to really quickly and were able to pull off. So for me, any time we got to set we would talk about the scene just standing there, but then we’d have to figure out how does space and how does Zero G work with this I think that was my favorite part of trying to figure out the magic of space and acting under those circumstances.”

Still, the actors needed to get a sense for what zero-gravity movement might looked like. For this experience, they spent a lot of time in a pool.

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If actor Mark Ivanir, who plays Misha, looks more fluid or natural flipping around in the fake Zero-G (which he does often), there’s a reason. Ivanir has a background in circus performance and was used to wire work. Though, Ivanir faced the same challenge as the other actors when it came to delivering lines.

Hilary Swank, who plays Emma, said she slowed her lines down just as she slowed down her movements. (The wires moved the actors slowly, but they still had to imitate slower movement with their arms and legs.) Try slowly walking and slowly moving your arms as you hold a normal speed conversation. It’s not easy.

Of course, with some VFX magic and actorly talents, viewers probably didn’t notice any of these things. It just looks like they shot their actors into space.

Joshua St Clair is an editorial assistant at Men’s Health Magazine. 

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