Crafting the South Pole Telescope

For our movie “Black Hole First Picture,” we captured telescopes from across the globe. Unfortunately we couldn’t go filming at the South Pole Telescope (SPT) which is located at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. But where there’s a will, there’s a way – so we decided to bring the South Pole Telescope to us!

Our first challenge was to determine the right scale. We started by stacking paper boxes to lay out the telescope, providing a sense of dimension and scale. The goal was to strike a balance between that we could work with enough fine detail while it also had to fit in our greenscreen. After much consideration, we decided on a 1/10 scale.

Meanwhile, our CG team was already working hard on collecting images from every angle. This preparation was critical to ensure that we could recreate the SPT with most precision. The research went down from finding the right blueprints of lamps & vents, to looking for which notes the researchers in the arctic wrote down on the door. This so it all could be re-created in our greenscreen in the Hague!

To achieve the high level of detail we aimed for, we brought in some SLA 3D printers. After printing countless components, such as handrails, staircases, a whole crane and much more, the assembly process began. Our skilled team of builders crafted each piece to perfection.

The builders used their own working space, which meant the telescope and other parts had to be transported by van. Luckily everything survived the ride!

The next phase was to introduce weathering & snow effects to our miniature set. This step was essential in recreating the SPT’s real-world appearance. To complete the set, we began building a snowy landscape around the miniature set, which we would expand further on in the post-production process.

After this we could finally set up the camera, and start filming. If you are curious about the endresult you should watch our movie: Black Hole First Picture!