Chazelle and a team led by Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Paul Lambert (Blade Runner 2049) used a unique combination of miniature, archival footage, traditional digital effects, and large LED screens to the Apollo 11 mission and the events leading up to it, and the end result is a film that makes the landmark moment in 1969 in the form of powerful today as it did half a century ago.
Digital Trends talked about Lambert about the innovative techniques that allowed the First Man visual effects team to blend old footage and era-appropriate camera aesthetics with modern, cutting-edge filmmaking technology, and draw from one of mankind\’s greatest achievements to deliver one of 2018\’s best movies and bring home an Academy Award for the film\’s visual effects team.
How did miniatures factor into the emphasis on practical effects?
They used miniatures, because when you look at some archival footage, a single-point source of light out looks like miniatures already. They finally decided that something with a mid-shot or a close shot, they should try to use 1: 6 scale miniatures. These were built by Ian Hunter, who also worked on Interstellar. He had a lot of experience with space photography already, so he was brought on board.
They did all the docking with miniatures and they also made a 1:30 scale version of Saturn V. That thing was about 14 to 15 feet long and used for some of the [Vehicle Assembly Building] scenes. When the rocket is coming out of the VAB in the film, that\’s actually a miniature.
With production deadlines, they have a bit of mixing and matching with miniature and CG. They actually shot the [Lunar Excursion Module] on stage, but because the feet are so big on the LEM, they should put them in digitally.