#2. Camera Effects: The Rise and Fall of a Space Shuttle Booster
This is a NASA highlight reel of every stupid fake camera effect Hollywood uses, and every single one is real.
You've got shaky-cam, but it's not because a cinematographer was replaced by his evil opposite and decided things would be cooler if you couldn't see what was going on. It's because the entire space booster is shaking. This is a space launch filmed from the point of view of 500 tons of solid explosive forming an orderly queue to detonate its way into space.
Then there's the rainy-cam, and again, it's not an annoying extra from a filmmaker making you wear glasses and then dripping on you. This is breaking through everything the sky itself can do because it will soon be literally beneath us. The whole time the speedometer is rocketing up like a high score of human achievement. Which is exactly what it is.
We watch a sonic boom build and break around the ship as we punch through the sky, and that's an effect even Hollywood hasn't thought of yet. In a minute we've beaten the sky. The shuttle nose is poking into the infinite black, and looking down you can see the curve of everything. No scene changes, no montage; we were on the pad and then lit a flame so fierce that the Earth itself ran away.
By far the best curve you can see online.
Then there's white-out, but it's not caused by someone turning up the saturation; it's caused by humanity burning bits of the world so hard that it decides to let us go.
Vorlons ain't got nothing on Homo sapiens.
Watch the video. There is nothing better you could do with nine minutes. Not even sex, because either you won't be finished in nine minutes, or your sex is insufficiently out-of-this-world to compete with this glory. The only reason it won't win Oscars is because we have to let people who only pretend to be awesome have their little prizes.
In fact, this isn't just special effects, this is an entire action movie. You've got the amazing kick-off scene, the unbelievable escalation of literally everything, the moment of crisis as the boosters break away from the shuttle (the heartbreaking sight of the shining Orbiter continuing on without you as you tumble through space kicks the emotional hell out of every romance, drama, and tragedy ever made), before the terminal action of plummeting through flames back to Earth and the classic, unbelievable, actually-happened-for-real last-minute save. Which is also an explosion. The boosters slam into the sea after proving that the puny atmospheric terminal velocity is nothing compared to the speed of space.
And if no one's using that space soundtrack of fuel tank creaks and moans for hauntological or house chillout, get on with that.
#1. Real-Life Computer Graphics
Terminator 2 is one of the best movies ever made. Part of the original appeal was incredible computer graphics that pushed the boundaries of cinema, then doused them in liquid nitrogen, ran them over with a truck, shot them infinity squillion times, and exploded them into a furnace. The liquid metal T-1000 remains one of the greatest villains in movie history (try to name another villain he couldn't beat). One man achieved the same level of special effect with a towel.
When a guy is being cool with a space towel, you know he's one hoopy frood.
We should probably mention that he went into space first.
Commander Chris Hadfield has just finished his shift as the Mister Rogers of space. He swung by every day (15.7 times) to tell us that everything is great. And when he looked out the window, he really could see everyone, why they should get along, and just how beautiful the world is.
NASA, Commander Hadfield
On Twitter and in space, he's the embodiment of Canada, quietly getting things right while everyone else gets upset about nonsense. PR is obviously part of the job, but he isn't up there chilling and advertising. All of every day is space work, and when he gets a few moments to himself, Commander Hadfield's idea of R&R is thinking "This is awesome, I should show more people." Given a choice between "educate the world through the Internet" and "get some sleep," he chose the former. Most of us choose the exact opposite. (Not getting sleep, but making ourselves dumber with the Internet.)
NASA, Commander Hadfield
It's like he's a travel agent advertising the entire planet as a beautiful place to visit. He's right.
This is a man who can post mind-expanding images every time he looks out the window, and when he noticed that didn't do anything for blind fans, he started posted audio recordings of the space station, too. He is the ultimate considerate gentleman. So when a school competition had kids asking him what happens when you wring out a towel in space, he did it. The result is three minutes of reminding yourself there are no special effects.
NASA, Commander Hadfield
Truly a master of the (use of gravitational as centripetal) Force.
His mic and props keep trying to float off, and you have to keep reminding yourself that this is really happening. This guy is in space, and is so good at being in space that he's just chilling to tell you about it. What's happened is that wringing it still forces the water out of the towel, but without gravity to drag it down, the defining force on the fluid is surface tension. So it creeps along the surface, which, in this case, is the astronaut, giving him a liquid coating.
He's sharing amazing things we would never have seen otherwise. He shows us what technology and humanity are really for. Just like the rest of the space program.
UPDATE: He continues to be the best person ever. He's already personally made Twitter worth all the bullshit, and now he's saved YouTube as well: