530 million people watched the the first humans walk on the surface of the moon, but no one has seen the moon landing quite like this before.
On July 20, 1969, NASA astronaut Neal Armstrong set foot upon the lunar surface. It was one of the most profound moments in our planet’s history. We had reached another world. 520 million people watched it happen, and it is said that for the half hour of live television broadcast, no hubcaps were stolen in the city of New York.
The technology of the day wasn’t up to to the high resolution imagery recovered by NASA during the mission, but today’s advancements yielded an opportunity motion designer Christian Stangl and his brother, composer Wolfgang Stangl. They gathered thousands of photos from NASA’s Project Apollo Archive and stitched them together to bring the moon landing to life, allowing people to watch the historic mission unfold in a way they never have before. The task took 18 months.
The high-resolution images, as you might recall, were captured using the famous Hasselblad-Moon cameras, which were build using a Hasselblad 500EL body. They were heavily modified to make them usable in one-sixth normal gravity, by suited astronauts wearing the equivalent of oven mitts.
In an email exchange with PetaPixel, Stangl explained how he managed to bring half a century-old still photos to life using both panoramic stitching and stop motion techniques:
I found lots of sets of photos that had the potential to be stitched together to show a whole scenario; especially on the lunar surface, the Astronauts often focused on taking 10 or more pictures of one view. I stitched them all together, divided them into layers, and animated the scene in Adobe After Effects using Camera Movement and various Light Effects.
Luckily I could find some short sequences of photos which had a recognizable coherent movement (usually just 2-4 frames). The challenge was to stabilize and time-stretch them to clips which were much longer than the original sequences. Honestly that was a tedious trial-and-error process. One additional problem was to sacrifice parts of the quadratic middle format pictures for 16:9 aspect ratio.
This film is a beautiful spectacle, and returns to us that sense of wonder we all felt in 1969 when, as a species, we experienced traveling in space and visiting an alien world for the first time. If you can, watch it full screen, with the speakers turned up, and the lights off. You will be transported. Adventure awaits.