Thursday, June 2, 2011

Space Shuttle: The Time-Lapse Movie

Last year while training for his STS-131 space shuttle mission, astronaut Alan Poindexter was looking for a different way to document Discovery's next-to-last flight, something that had never been done. So he turned to a couple of friends—Scott Andrews, a photographer and technical advisor to Canon who has shot every shuttle launch but two, and Stan Jirman, a software engineer for Apple. They came up with a winning suggestion: What about a time-lapse video that captured the whole process of getting a shuttle ready for launch?

The result, produced in collaboration with Andrews’ son Philip (a photojournalist himself), is a stunning, one-of-a-kind, four-minute chronicle of Discovery’s trip from the Orbiter Processing Facility to the pad, beginning with the "rollover" to the Vehicle Assembly Building on February 22 and ending with the STS-131 launch on April 5.

With the help of everyone from shuttle technicians to crane operators to escorts (86-year-old NASA retiree Charlie Parker was particularly valuable in squiring Andrews’ team around) the photographers positioned multiple cameras—up to nine at any one time—inside the cavernous assembly building to click away while the orbiter, fuel tank, and twin solid rocket boosters were “stacked” for launch.
Scott Andrews figures the finished video represents tens of thousands of individual frames and at least 100 hours of shooting, using the highest-resolution digital single-lens-reflex cameras on the market. Jirman did the color correction, which took a week alone.
When it was done, Poindexter had what he'd wanted—a unique visual record of an intricate workflow that’s been going on at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for nearly 30 years—and, with the shuttle's impending retirement, is about to come to an end.

In this unique time-lapse video created from thousands of individual frames, photographers Scott Andrews, Stan Jirman and Philip Scott Andrews condense six weeks of painstaking work into three minutes, 52 seconds (read here how they did it). The action starts in the hangar-like Orbiter Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where Discovery has been outfitted for its STS-131 mission. The vehicle is then towed to the 525-foot-high Vehicle Assembly Building, hoisted into a vertical position and lowered onto its external fuel tank and twin solid rocket boosters. Then it’s off to the pad on the giant Mobile Launcher Platform, where the shuttle is encased in its protective Rotating Service Structure until just before launch on April 5, 2010. The film ends with a glimpse of Discovery and the STS-131 astronauts coming in for a landing 15 days later, back in Florida where it all started. 


All I can say is...this is simply amazing.  :-)

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