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Gripping film made from NASA Apollo shots captures magic of zero-gravity

Take an atmospheric trip back to the golden age of manned space travel with this fan film from YouTube user Tom Kucy made with images from Project Apollo Archive.

Earlier this month, space fan Kipp Teague released nearly 14,000 images from NASA's Apollo missions to a Flickr account called the Project Apollo Archive. Graphic designer Tom Kucy was inspired by the flood of images from the space program that landed men on the moon. He created a short film that adds movement and music to the shots.

The film, titled "Ground Control," was released on YouTube on October 8. I caught up with Kucy to find out more about how it was created.

Q: How did you choose the images you used?
Kucy: I needed images that were sharp and in focus, as well as images that had great light and shadow. I knew once everything was cut out that I could reframe and combine the images to my liking. When I laid the images out, I wanted to show scale between the tiny capsule and the curvature of Earth, and have some shots with foreground information and flare to help sell the idea that you're peeking through a window.

Are the images all from one particular Apollo mission, or a range?
Kucy: The images seen in this film are from various missions. "Ground Control" is concentrating on the weightlessness of orbiting and drifting around the Earth. For my next film I plan on concentrating on touchdown and exploration of the moon.

How long did the whole project take?
Kucy: The project took three days, and I made it a point to keep the project in 4K, as these images were released with great fidelity and I wanted to maintain that. The final render took 11 hours and was about 7.5GB in size.

Did you have the idea for this before the archive was released, or is that what prompted the project?
Kucy: I have done other projects using similar techniques seen in this video, but this project was definitely inspired solely by the recently released Apollo images and the resulting impact on my imagination.

Can you explain a bit more about how you achieved the movement in the video? For example, how did the astronaut move out of the capsule?
Kucy: For most of the scenes it was as simple as adding slight rotations and movements to each element. The subtleness was important. I was trying to give the feeling of vast empty space and how slow objects would be moving in zero-gravity. For some of the more complex scenes I used Adobe After Effect's masking tools, to help give the illusion of the astronaut coming out of the capsule. I used relatively simple techniques, but when you use them in the right way you can really sell the movement and motion of zero-gravity.

Have you always been a space fan?
Kucy: I have always been interested in aeronautics and space travel, so when the treasure trove of images was released, I spent an entire night browsing, saving and restoring multiple photos. We are so used to these super-polished well-presented photos that make it to the press, it was really exciting to see how candid some of these photos were, truly imperfect and amazing in their own way.