How to Rebuild The 'Interstellar' Black Hole Without CGI

The lo-fi way to create a stunning gravity well
Shanks FX/PBS Digital Studios

The black hole at the heart of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar — that’s not a metaphor, I’m referring to the naturally occurring space phenomenon — required the combination of astrophysicist Kip Thorne and a team of visual effects experts to create. But what if someone could make an almost identical one without CGI elements and complicated math?

Using only “in-camera” elements and computer compositing, filmmaker Joe Schenkenberg — better known as Shanks FX — did that very thing, transforming such disparate images as miniature models, glowing fans and well-lit oil into a surprisingly convincing take on the Interstellar event.

(Construction of the final effect includes methods featured in earlier videos Shanks has released, all of which are weirdly hypnotic to watch.)

In the description to the video, which was released to YouTube in association with PBS Digital Studios, Schenkenberg jokes that he didn’t think he could “provide any complex mathematical equations for my effects like astrophysicist Kip Thorne did.” It may be less scientifically sound, but it’s no less beautiful.

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