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Apollo 11 review: a truly stunning new way to see the moon landing

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Fifty years ago this July, the first men landed on the moon, the culmination of the Apollo 11 mission. “Iconic” is an overused word, but the images recorded during that mission deserve it: the blast-off moment, the American flag planted on the lunar surface, Neil Armstrong reflected in Buzz Aldrin’s helmet.

Those images have been revisited countless times in the five decades of pop culture since. Just last year, the masterful film First Man told the story of the moon landing as part of a character study of Neil Armstrong. The landing itself and the images we have from it symbolize a moment in history — whether real, mythological, or aspirational — in which anything seemed possible, a moment when it was possible to believe that humanity could unite toward a common goal. The Apollo 11 images have come to represent hope.


The shuttle launches in Apollo 11.

The shuttle launches in Apollo 11.
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The new documentary Apollo 11, directed by Todd Douglas Miller, harnesses those images to powerfully retell the story of the mission. But Miller’s film does a lot more than just retread familiar history. Using never-before-seen footage and sound from the mission that has been meticulously scanned and restored, Apollo 11 moves from launch to safe return in a way that makes you feel as if you’re living through it. There’s minimal onscreen text, a couple of very simple illustrations to show the shuttle’s trajectory, and no talking heads.

The result is an extraordinary film. It is grand and awe-inspiring, particularly if you can catch it in IMAX, where the larger-format images create the feeling of being engulfed by what you’re watching onscreen. It’s almost as if you’re actually on the moon.

Yet the film also focuses on the intimate moments, tedious calculations, and the army of scientists and technicians who truly propelled the mission along. It took much more than a few indelible images to get Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins to the moon and back again — something they all noted in writing about their experience afterward.

Apollo 11 focuses not just on the awe-inspiring moonscapes but on the intricate, intimate moments of the shuttle’s mission

When I talked to Miller recently about the film, he noted that based on reading the astronauts’ books, it’s clear that the “most iconic moments from the mission” weren’t the ones we think of automatically. “It wasn’t landing on the moon. It wasn’t getting back safely, the return, taking off, all the big moments that always get broadcast and retold time and time again. It was all the little moments: approaching the moon, seeing the solar eclipse, having the moon appear.”

So that’s what he sought to bring to the film — and he had the benefit of some good luck. After CNN Films approached him to work on the documentary, Miller contacted the National Archives about restoring footage from the mission. “I said, ‘Look, what would it take for me to re-scan all of the 16 and 35 [mm film] that was related to Apollo 11?’” he recalled. “There had been no major effort to do it in over a decade. I said, ‘If I did it, I would just do it all. What are we looking at?’ They were like, ‘You want to do what?’”

They agreed. But the already huge undertaking was made especially massive by the discovery of 65mm reels that had been sitting in a vault for decades. The large-format film, which captures extraordinary, rich images and was being used at the time for Hollywood productions like The Sound of Music, was shot by NASA employees as well as the crew of a documentary to be called Moonwalk One, which was released in 1972. Much of the footage the Apollo 11 team worked with had never been seen by the public. And there were more than 11,000 hours of audio to match.


Buzz Aldrin in Apollo 11.

Buzz Aldrin in Apollo 11.
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Miller and his team waded through it all — a true “divide and conquer” effort, as he put it — and worked with the post-production company Final Frame to digitize it. “At one point, we were going to do it all in 4K,” Miller told me, explaining his initial plan to produce the film in a very high-resolution digital format. “Then we were in a meeting and Final Frame’s owner, Will Cox, said, ‘You know, if you wait six months, I think we can do it at 16K.’” That would require developing a new scanner, but Todd decided the delay would be worth it. “I don’t want to look back on this moment in 20 years and have said no,” he said. “That six months turned into eight. It was definitely worth it, but it was nail-biting the entire time.”

When all the scans were finally complete, the result was about a petabyte of information (1 million gigabytes).

Apollo 11’s imagery is stunning, even if you’ve seen the moon landing many times before

Indeed, the team’s efforts and patience were well worth the outcome. The quality of Apollo 11’s footage is hard to believe — we’re simply not used to seeing such high-resolution imagery from that time period, especially inside NASA control rooms or among the throngs of spectators who gathered at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the launch. And yet, though most of us haven’t seen the evidence, people were filming the whole time. “These camera guys were asked to turn their back on what is basically one of the most historic things in human history and just shoot this way,” Miller says, gesturing away from where the shuttle would have been — all to make sure the ordinary civilians gathered were part of the story too.

And it wasn’t just trained camera operators documenting the mission; among the film’s credited cinematographers are Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins, all of whom shot photos and film on the moon itself.

All of the resulting footage and sound tells a stirring story. Chatter in the control rooms and in the shuttle is mixed with voiceover from public figures like Walter Cronkite, in narration drawn from his news coverage at the time. Jokes fly between the astronauts and mission control, and there are moments of tension and levity. Men wipe their brows with relief. Aldrin plays “Mother Country” on a cassette tape; we hear it through the sound link from space to the ground. The astronauts explain to Mission Control what sleeping arrangements they’ve come up with in the cramped shuttle.

“There’s a lot of tedious things that happen when you go to the moon, simple things,” Miller says. “You’re just trying to survive. How do you go to the bathroom? You’re shaving. All the little things. We wanted to highlight that and also the humanity and just let it play out.”


The astronauts board the vehicle that will take them to their spacecraft.

The astronauts board the vehicle that will take them to their spacecraft.
Neon

Often, moments like the moon landing are sliced into snippets and sound bites that make it seem like Aldrin, Armstrong, and Collins were the only true heroes, propelling the mission along. But mixing their individual moments into the bigger picture, and showing how many people were watching and working and hoping for the best, makes the team effort, and the great scientific and technical triumph, come through much more clearly. Even the single most famous moment of the moon landing — Armstrong’s “one small step for man” statement when he first touched the lunar surface — is expanded; the footage keeps rolling, and then Armstrong starts making observations about the lunar dust, and its depth, for NASA’s research.

And that feels especially appropriate for a film that required such a large team effort to complete, from Miller and his cohort to the post-production house to the archivists and, of course, the many people who shot the source footage a half-century ago. “There was just a ton of cinematographers, ordinary people, shooting,” Miller says. “It’s some of the most gorgeous stuff I’ve ever seen. My hope is, even though a lot of these people aren’t around anymore, that hopefully they get credited and honored now that the film is coming out.”

Apollo 11 opened nationwide on March 8. It’s also playing in IMAX in select theaters.

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Look at How Much “Game of Thrones” Characters Have Changed Over 8 Seasons

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During the summer of 2019, the final season of Game of Thrones aired. The show had gone on for almost 10 years which is a long time not only for the characters but also for the actors who portrayed them.

Bright Side is remembering what characters looked like in the very first episodes of the groundbreaking series and is comparing them to what they look like in the final season of the show.

1. Cersei Lannister

2. Jon Snow

3. Tyrion Lannister

4. Daenerys Targaryen

5. Sansa Stark

6. Arya Stark

7. Jorah Mormont

8. Varys

9. Jaime Lannister

10. Sandor Clegane

11. Brienne of Tarth

12. Samwell Tarly

13. Davos Seaworth

14. Theon Greyjoy

15. Brandon Stark

Did you watch Game of Thrones? Did you enjoy season 8? Tell us in the comment section below.

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Baltimore’s ransomware attack, explained – Vox

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Thirteen bitcoins are standing between the city of Baltimore and many of the services and processes its citizens rely on after hackers seized thousands of government computers at the start of the month. The ordeal has been going on for two weeks, and there’s no clear end in sight.

Here’s what’s happening: On May 7, hackers digitally seized about 10,000 Baltimore government computers and demanded around $100,000 worth in bitcoins to free them back up. It’s a so-called “ransomware” attack, where hackers deploy malicious software to block access to or take over a computer system until the owner of that system pays a ransom.

Baltimore, like several other cities that have been hit by such attacks over the past two years, is refusing to pay up. As a result, for two weeks, city employees have been locked out of their email accounts and citizens have been unable to access essential services, including websites where they pay their water bills, property taxes, and parking tickets. This is Baltimore’s second ransomware attack in about 15 months: Last year, a separate attack shut down the city’s 911 system for about a day. Baltimore has come under scrutiny for its handling of both attacks.

The ransomware attacks in Baltimore and other local governments across the US demonstrate that as ransomware attacks spread, and as common targets such as hospitals and schools beef up their online systems’ security, there are still plenty targets vulnerable to this kind of hack. It also exemplifies the conundrum that ransomware victims face: pay up and get your access back, or refuse — potentially costing much more in the long run.

What’s going on in Baltimore, briefly explained

Hackers targeted the city of Baltimore on May 7 using a ransomware called RobbinHood, which, as NPR explains, makes it impossible to access a server without a digital key that only the hackers have.

The Baltimore hackers’ ransom note, obtained by the Baltimore Sun, demanded payment of three bitcoins per system to be unlocked, which amounts to 13 bitcoins to unlock all the seized systems. The note threatened to increase the ransom if it wasn’t paid in four days, and said the information would be lost forever if it wasn’t paid in 10 days. Both deadlines have now passed.

“We won’t talk more, all we know is MONEY! Hurry up! Tik Tak, Tik Tak, Tik Tak!” the note said.

The city government is refusing to pay, meaning that the government email systems and payment platforms the attack took down remain offline. The attack has also harmed Baltimore’s property market, because officials weren’t able to access systems needed to complete real estate sales. (The city said transactions resumed on Monday.)

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young, who’s officially been in his office less than a month, said in a statement on Friday that city officials are “well into the restorative process” and have “engaged leading industry cybersecurity experts who are on-site 24-7 working with us.” The FBI is also involved in the investigation.

“Some of the restoration efforts also require that we rebuild certain systems to make sure that when we restore business functions, we are doing so in a secure manner,” Young said. He did not offer a timeline for when all systems will come back online.

The Baltimore City Council president also plans to form a special committee to investigate this latest attack and try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

A similar attack using RobbinHood hit government computers in Greenville, North Carolina, in April. A spokesperson for Greenville told the Wall Street Journal that the city never wound up paying, and that while its systems aren’t entirely restored, “all of our major technology needs are now being met.”

More than 20 municipalities in the US have been hit by cyberattacks this year alone. And such attacks can be expensive, perhaps especially if targets say they won’t pay. In 2018, hackers demanded that Atlanta pay about $50,000 in bitcoins as part of a ransomware attack. The city refused, and according to a report obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News, the attack wound up costing the city $17 million to fix.

Ransomware attacks aren’t new — but we’re still figuring out how to deal with them

In 2017, a ransomware called WannaCry targeted tens of thousands of computers using Microsoft Windows operating systems in more than 100 countries. Officials in the US and the United Kingdom eventually blamed North Korea for the attack. Also in 2017, corporations in the UK, France, Russia, Israel, and Ukraine experienced ransomware attacks. US hospitals were also targeted.

Here’s how Timothy Lee explained for Vox what was going on and how ransomware had become more prolific:

The basic idea behind ransomware is simple: A criminal hacks into your computer, scrambles your files with unbreakable encryption, and then demands that you pay for the encryption key needed to unscramble the files. If you have important files on your computer, you might be willing to pay a lot to avoid losing them.

Ransomware schemes have become a lot more effective since the invention of Bitcoin in 2009. Conventional payment networks like Visa and Mastercard make it difficult to accept payments without revealing your identity. Bitcoin makes that a lot easier. So the past four years have seen a surge in ransomware schemes striking unsuspecting PC users.

Some ransomware schemes are so sophisticated that they even invest in customer service, helping victims who want to pay their ransoms navigate the complexities of obtaining bitcoins and making bitcoin payments.

Since then, a number of sectors and organizations have made improvements to their security practices to protect against ransomware. But the latest Baltimore attack exemplifies what a whack-a-mole game this is: One area improves its practices and hackers just go looking for another.


Recode and Vox have joined forces to uncover and explain how our digital world is changing — and changing us. Subscribe to Recode podcasts to hear Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka lead the tough conversations the technology industry needs today.

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Cameron Russell for ELLE

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A film by Kai Z Feng of our February 2014 cover.

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