Oscar joy for graphic design graduate

Former University of Derby student Rob Garner is part of Oscar-winning team behind blockbuster film Gravity

By Steve Banting

The 30-year-old, who studied graphic design at the University from 2002-2005, now works as a compositor for visual effects company Framestore, where he helped make actress Sandra Bullock appear as if she was floating in zero gravity in the hugely popular film.

The work of Rob and his colleagues helped win Gravity the Oscar for Best Visual Effects at the 86th Academy Awards earlier this month. The film won six other awards including Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. 

Rob, originally from Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, now lives in Canada and is based at the British company’s Montreal offices.

He said: “It’s great to have been involved in such an amazing film as Gravity, and it’s certainly one of the boxes ticked off my ‘bucket list’ in terms of being part of an Oscar-winning team. The next one would be to go there and pick up an award myself.

“We all knew the film would be extremely difficult from the start and as soon as we were seeing the final images towards the end of the project we knew we were part of something special in terms of the visual effects we were producing.”

He added: “As a compositor, I am generally at the very end of the post-production process, regarding making visual effects. It is my job to combine all the work generated from the other departments and make them look as ‘photo-realistic’ as I possibly can.

“My involvement in Gravity was mainly all set within the International Space Station, where we made Sandra Bullock appear to be floating in zero gravity. When they filmed her on set she was attached to around a dozen wires, with a harness to make it appear she was floating in space.

“It was then my job, with a small team of others, to go through the sequence and remove the harness underneath her outfit – as you could see it underneath the vest she was wearing – whilst also removing all of the remaining wires she was dangling from.

“We would then render this out and pass it on to the next member of the team who would then do the final composite of her in the computer graphic space station and finish everything off to make it seem as though she was actually there, in zero gravity.” 

It isn’t the first major film title Rob has been involved in. He counts War Horse, Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows and 47 Ronin as some of his most accomplished while at Framestore.

When he left Derby in 2005, Rob found work as a ‘runner’ at a post-production facility in London before moving on to the BBC.

He explained: “This was a valuable experience for me as it gave me a real insight into how television programmes and films are made behind the scenes. It also gave me my first insight into the world of visual effects.

“I worked at the BBC for a short while in production but it didn’t take me long to realise where my heart really lies. After further training, I sent out my show-reel to potential employers in the hope that someone would give me my big break and offer me a job, which came when I got my current position with Framestore.”




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