Interstellar VFX Team Publishes Scientific Study About Constructing an Accurate Black Hole
Interstellar certainly wasn't a perfect movie, but it did have one huge advantage in the form of scientific consulting from Kip Thorne, a renowned astrophysicist who ensured that their depiction of black holes, wormholes, and other celestial phenomena were as scientifically accurate as possible.
"Interstellar is the first Hollywood movie to attempt depicting a black hole as it would actually be seen by somebody nearby," the authors wrote in the paper, which was published today in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity. In order to achieve these groundbreaking visual effects, they needed a suitably innovative technique when creating the black hole, Gargantua. Early in the process, the visual effects team found that the traditional method for creating visual representations of black holes caused an inaccurate flickering caused by the movement of the simulated stars.
"To get rid of the flickering and produce realistically smooth pictures for the movie, we changed our code in a manner that has never been done before," said study lead author Oliver James, chief scientist at special effects firm Double Negative. "Instead of tracing the paths of individual light rays using Einstein's equations - one per pixel - we traced the distorted paths and shapes of light beams."
This study will not only assist filmmakers in creating more accurate black holes, but will also help physicists study the phenomenon with more realistic simulations to use in their research. "This new approach to making images will be of great value to astrophysicists like me," said Thorne. "We, too, need smooth images."
The paper also discussed the visual effect of caustics, which are essentially crinkly surfaces of spacetime. These distortions in spacetime would impact the view of the observer, or a camera, when viewing a black hole from up close: "A light beam emitted from any point on a caustic surface gets focused by the black hole into a bright cusp of light at a given point," James said. "All of the caustics, except one, wrap around the sky many times when the camera is close to the black hole. This sky-wrapping is caused by the black hole's spin, dragging space into a whirling motion around itself like the air in a whirling tornado, and stretching the caustics around the black hole many times."