How Kubrick Made 2001: A Space Odyssey – Part 3: The Lunar Surface

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the making of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In Part 3, we follow Floyd to the Clavius Moon Base to investigate the Tycho Magnetic Anomaly (the monolith). Every bit of information in this video was available for free on the Internet and from the Bluray of the film. I explored what was available on the Internet and found tons of great information from a wide variety of sources concerning the special effects, music, costumes, set, and several of the actors.


We begin the second part of the Floyd sequence with this shot of the Aries shuttle traveling toward the moon.

“[The] Moon is [a] transparency of [a] telescopic picture of [the] real Moon, rephotographed on [an] animation stand. [The] Moon-shuttle Aries is a still photograph of [a] model two feet in diameter shot on [a] horizontal camera in order to get the longest track movement as it moves away. [The] Movement of [the] Aries was made by visualizing its relative movement against [the] background and translating it simply to a first-and-last frame position” (Making 104).

Here we see the “8 X 10 moon plate being photographed on [a] 65mm Oxberry animation stand” (Making 104).

The shots of space were quite often ruined when one or more of the background stars would appear over one of the models during the animation process. Special effects artist Brian Johnson explains in an interview with TV Store Online:

“[A]ll of the images were “held” takes so they could go from one process of the animation to another…For example, we should shoot a track-in on a spacecraft.  It would next go to the “blobber” department, as it was called, and they would project each frame of what we had shot and then they would create the matte background that was needed for the shot so the stars could be put into the shot.  Then it would go next to the department that made the stars themselves, and then eventually all of it would end up together on a strip of film as one single shot.  There were often times when one frame or two would be out of sync in the process and a star would bleed into the spaceship and then the entire thing would have to be done all over again” (Brian Johnson Interview).

Kubrick would file an insurance claim for each and every one of those mistakes. And, as Johnson mentions, “there was one filed nearly every day” (Brian Johnson Interview).

After working on 2001, Brian Johnson would go on to do special effects for The Empire Strikes Back, The first two Alien movies, and The NeverEnding Story, to name a few.

The Aries set is quite clever and the design makes full use of the concept of there being no wrong way to orient one’s self in space. As this poster gets wrong, the pilots of the Aries are not situated on the side, but instead on the top as we can see here. That said, there does seem to be an inconsistency in the spatial layout of the Aries in this shot of the stewardess bringing the food trays to the pilots. If the layout was consistent with what we can see from the outside, the stewardess should have rotated 90 degrees to enter the cockpit instead of 180 degrees, which she does. And while we’re on the subject, some have pointed out that the food would not have slid back down the straw in zero gravity, but that’s a little nitpicky.

How they did the shot is, “[the] [r]oom in [the] foreground turned—the actress walked a treadmill in [a] separate room in background. [The] camera was locked to [the] front of [the] set, which rotated 180 degrees. [The] [e]ntire set rotated. [The] [s]tewardess stayed at [the] bottom, giving [the] appearance of walking on [the] wall” (Making 101).

Here is an exterior view of the set:

Here we can see the Aries set during its construction.

 In an article for American Cinematographer Magazine, special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull details what went into giving the feel of moving through space from the windows.

“The interior set of the Orion spacecraft (which flew from the earth to the space station) and the interior set of the Aries spacecraft (which flew from the space station to the moon) were both equipped with pinhole star backgrounds outside the windows. These backgrounds were made of thin sheet metal with each star individually drilled, and were mounted on tracks to produce an apparent motion from inside. As shooting began it became apparent that when the stars had the correct intensity in the 35mm print-down, they were much too bright in a 70mm print. And, when the stars looked correct in the 70mm version, they would disappear altogether in 35mm. So star brightness became a compromise, and after all the problems encountered in trying to accurately control star intensity on the set, almost all stars shot subsequent to those interiors were photographed on the animation stand.

The [Oxberry] animation stand equipped with a 65mm Mitchell camera was used for shooting backgrounds of stars, Earth, Jupiter, the Moon, as well as for rotascoping and shooting high contrast mattes. All stars shot on the animation stand were spatter-airbrushed onto glossy black paper backing and were shot at field sizes of from six to twenty-four inches wide. Extensive tests were made to find the optimum star speed for each shot and great care was taken to control the action so that the stars wouldn’t strobe. In almost all shots it was necessary for the stars to be duped, but this became a simpler problem because they required only one record instead of the usual three YCM’s (American Cinematographer).”

Possibly the only joke in the film—the zero gravity toilet—has ridiculously detailed instructions for its use. Even in the Bluray version it is really hard to read, but I found a clear picture of the instructions that I’ll put in the description if you are interested in reading it.

In this shot, the “Aries is a photograph and [the] window scenes are rear projections. [The] Earth in the background [was] shot with [the] Moon terrain on [an] animation camera, with stars. [The] [b]ackground [was] ‘mastered’ and printed on [a] new negative by [a] horizontal camera at [the] same time [the] camera photographed [the] Aries and automatically masked [the] terrain” (Making 105).

The Aries model was designed in New York City by NASA consultants and technical advisors Fred Ordway and Harry Lange before they left for England. In an interview, Ordway discusses the design of the Aries:

“It was strictly a rocket that was never designed to go into an atmosphere. We knew it had to have balance for when it landed on the moon. It was a legitimate design. It was centered around four main propulsion units and it was designed to land on Clavius. We played around with all different sorts of designs for the Aries 1-B before we settled on how it appears in the film” (Fred Ordway Interview).

The windows from the inside of the Aries cockpit set were matted and replaced with the view of the Clavius moonbase model.

The moonbase model itself was a mere “4 feet by 4 feet.” When asked about it, Brian Johnson said, “because we photographed it with a wide lens with a big exposure, we got the depth we needed right from the start. We made the moon craters by pouring plaster and then taking a 6 inch brush and flicking it with water as it set.  That was how all of the craters were made.   We had sculptresses Liz Moore and Joyce Seddon helping us… When we started to create the moon landscapes for 2001 we were working off of NASA photographs that they had sent us, and once we had shot it, we’d have to go back and re-shoot it too, because each time we would complete the shot, NASA would send us another set of photographs that showed the moon landscape in greater detail.  That went on and on” (Brian Johnson Interview).

The narration in the screenplay sheds a little more light on the Clavius Moonbase.

Narrator: “The Base at Clavius was the first American Lunar Settlement that could, in an emergency, be entirely self-supporting… Water and all the necessities of life for its eleven hundred men, women and children were produced from the Lunar rocks, after they had been crushed, heated and chemically processed.”

This shot employs the same front projection technique we saw in the Dawn of Man sequence. The foreground and astronauts are positioned in front of the projection screen. It was most likely done around the end of production because the special effects in what is being projected onto the screen would have had to have been completed first. And we can see a glow around one of the astronaut’s helmets as it gets closer to the screen.

The “Aries lands in [a] ten-foot-diameter Astrodome – [with] eight three-foot-long, pie-shaped panels that withdrew ‘underground.’ [The] [l]ights of [the] landing platform were extra-brilliant tiny bulbs from West Germany” (Making 105).

“Dust was raised by air nozzles in rocket motors. [The] scene was photographed at high speed to create [a] slow-motion effect” (Making 105).

Brian Johnson recounts his experience working on this shot: “[T]hat was done with a counter-weighted beam that held the pod model up in the air that was designed by Wally Veevers.  It had a spigot that came out of the back of it. I noticed how there was nothing on the spigot that would lock the model into place because when the pivoted arm went down there was nothing to stop the model from sliding off the spigot and crashing.  I fitted it up with a device that locked it on. It was a system that was designed to automatically raise and lower the pod onto the landing pad, and it took a team of us to have it land down with the air coming out of it as well” (Brian Johnson Interview).

What follows is the “Calvius base airlock with [the] Aries 1B descending – [it was] a set about fifteen feet deep; [the] Aries was about two feet in diameter. Several held takes were exposed with the little rooms and screens together on them; [the] separation masters of [the] airlock scene were also printed. [The] [s]cenes ‘inside’ the little glass booths – of people moving around – were each shot as a separate scene to fit the perspective, full size on 35mm film. [The] [l]ast step was adding [the] airlock scene around them. This was done on [the] same camera that combined all [of the] 35mm ‘plates,’ the Lin Dunn Matte camera” (Making 106).

The Aries model is beautiful and I’m happy to say that the Aries was one of the very few models that did survive. As we discussed earlier in Part 2, it is quite rare for any of the props, models, or costumes from the production to still exist because Kubrick did not want any other films to reuse any of the materials made for 2001 and for another reason as Fred Ordway explains:

“Stanley was talking about allowing myself and a colleague of mine to take possession of the left over models from the shooting of the film because we wanted to display them at the NASA museum in the United States. We had spots all picked out in the museum for the display, and Stanley asked me to come back to England so I could supervise the packing and the shipping of the models. Then, one day, I got a telegram from Stanley that said, “I’ve changed my mind. We can’t display these in the United States or anywhere in England, because I don’t want to disturb the reality of the film itself. “ He felt that if people saw the models in a display at a museum that it would effect how people saw the film” (Fred Ordway Interview).

Brian Johnson recounts the fate of many of the models: “MGM didn’t scrap the [space station] model, Stanley did. After the movie finishing shooting, all of the models were put into storage containers and were put into a storage facility next door to Elstree Studios that MGM had rented out. After a number of years, and when MGM folded, the storage company notified Stanley that the cost for the storage had to be paid for to keep it going but he decided not to pay it.  So without telling anyone, the storage company just dumped everything that was in the storage lot into a field” (Brian Johnson Interview).

However, the fate of the Aries model is a different story. In the 70s, the model was given to an art teacher in England who used it to teach his students about technology and then kept it in his house until recently when it was put up for auction in March of 2015. The winner of the auction was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who paid $344,000 for the model and plans to display it in their museum in 2017 (Aries Auction).

Here is a production photo of part of a set that doesn’t appear in the finished film—and it looks as though this is from a very short scene in a 1965 draft of the screenplay that takes place in between the Aries landing and the boardroom scene.

The scene description is as follows:

“Large central reception area. Doors branching off to different main halls. Small pond with plastic white swan and a bit of grass. A few benches with three women and their children having an outing… Floyd and welcoming party walk through after exiting elevator. Halvorsen, Michaels and five others” (screenplay).

We can see the principle of contrast/balance/line of sight yet again in the boardroom scene. These luminous white walls do a great job of making the people to stand out in the scene and, in the closer shot of Floyd, they provide a nice subtle backlighting that makes Floyd stand out even when he occasionally overlaps the dark curtain in the background.

We can see some more of wardrobe designer Hardy Amies’ brilliant outfits for the film—most notably the ultra-stylish plaid suit worn by the man taking pictures at the beginning of the scene, which 2001italia points out is remarkably similar to a Hardy Amies piece in the Fall 2013 Menswear collection.

Here we see the photographer’s futuristic camera prop complete with case and accessories that don’t even appear in the film. The camera itself looks very similar to a director’s viewfinder in which Kubrick would often use when deciding where to put the camera. Perhaps this is where the idea came from.

We can see the first setup in this photo. These lights were most likely meant to simulate the glow of the boardroom’s back wall. And this case at the bottom of the photo looks like it could very well be a prop, but it does not appear in the scene. It does looks similar to the case that held the futuristic camera prop—notice the keyhole, the latches, and metallic logo. The only thing that’s missing is the handle and a sticker. The camera is centered behind Floyd’s chair, but as we can see in the shot, it is tilted just slightly.

This is the only setup in the scene in which the camera moves—the movement is a pan that occurs when the photographer exits the boardroom and again when Floyd walks to the front of the room to give his speech. Kubrick has two subjects of the scene affect the pan. It first pans to follow the photographer as he prepares to exit and then pans back with the man walking to the lectern to introduce Floyd. As we can see in this photo, the pan was necessary due to how narrow the set was even with what looks like a wide-angle lens. With what we’ve seen in the previous segments, Kubrick used just a few setups per scene which would have made a separate shot of the photographer exiting seem a little out of place and needless especially when you consider how some of these sets had a very limited amount of space.

The film’s pacing can be attributed to the small amount of setups per scene—fewer setups often invites longer takes and the precision of the shots and editing is reflected in the cleanliness and precision of the production design. If I had to characterize Kubrick’s style in one word, I would probably say: “deliberate.” Meticulous care and thought was put into each frame of this movie, which is why a slight tilt in this shot is enough to drive a Kubrick lover mad. Was this done on purpose? Was weight purposely given to this man? Was it meant to be slightly off due to the mysterious nature of the scene? It’s probably nothing.

We soon get a shot from behind the man sitting to the right of where Floyd was sitting. The back of the man’s head is out of focus in the foreground. This is a nice visual setup because we see this man featured prominently in the framing of this shot even though he is out of focus and our attention is on Floyd. However, shortly after this, we get a full shot of the man as he asks a question. This is a brilliant visual set up because we subconsciously put importance on this man from his size in the previous shot and we almost expect him to speak later, but it is so subtle that we don’t even realize that we expect it. It would have been very heavy-handed if Kubrick cut to a simple reaction shot of the man earlier. It would have been very obvious that this person will get a line later and that information would have distracted our attention away from what Floyd is talking about to, instead, thinking about what this man might say.

We can also see in the wider shot from behind Floyd directly before the man speaks, he begins to move as he does in the closer shot, which tells us that Kubrick must have shot the full scene in the wider shot and perhaps hadn’t decided whether or not to feature the closer shot of the man until he was in the editing room.

In this photo we can see the setup for the closer shot of the man and it looks as though this was the only shot in which the camera was physically on the set. It seems quite similar to how the Dawn of Man sequence was shot. It looks like they either rotated the set 180 degrees and switched out the walls or relocated the camera on the other side of the set and floated the wall out.

In this shot, we’re looking at a “[c]utout photo of [the] Moon bus, with rear projection action in [the] windows. [The] movement was [a] combination of [the] camera pulling back and [the] bus moving laterally along its perspective axis. [The] camera was tilted slightly so this axis would line up with horizon” (Making 107).

This behind the scenes photo gives us a sense of how the special effects shots were composed. They would cut out a miniature from a Polaroid and then paste it onto a photo of the landscape to see what it looked like and whether or not they wanted to proceed with the shot.

Douglas Trumbull: “You know, you have a little storyboard drawing. A lot of the storyboard drawings we worked with were very simple… sketches almost. But you see shots in the movie and then you see the Moonbus and that was one of my first tasks on 2001 as a young man. I was probably maybe 24 starting to detail these miniatures and trying to make them look photorealistic even though they were just fiberglass models with not much detail. And we started figuring out how to put detail and painting and actually, since I was an illustrator, I was actually painting with my airbrush right on the model to create different panels of texture and brightness and reflection and trying to make it look as big as we possibly could and then I got involved in shooting some of these miniatures. Kubrick really got to like me and what I was able to do and so I got into designing some of these shots like this: where each of these was a thousand watt light bulb out of a slide projector and this was a painting back here and this is the Moonbus that was going to land and it’s mounted on this rod back here. It’s kind of tilting up and down. Has nitrogen coming through the nozzles of the supposedly jet engines or rocket engines to stir up all this dust. I was in charge of the animation department and this was one of the shots looking down on the little moonbase, so it’s a photograph of a plaster model that’s now had little holes drilled in it and there’s lights coming in from behind. We used a lot of lens flairs and a lot of natural kind of photographic lens phenomena to try to make things look real.

And this whole technique of 2-dimentional flat photographs of the models on a giant sheet of glass and then being able to project little movies into the windows. You’ll see a lot of shots in 2001 where there’s really not any perspective shifts going on because it’s a 2-dimensional photograph. And we had to mount it on glass to superimpose one thing against another.”

Although, only some of the moonbus shots were done by animation. Johnson recalls that “the majority of [those shots were] done with the actual model and the camera moving back and forth on a track shooting it.  When we were watching the Moonbus footage in the dailies, Stanley wasn’t [happy] with it because he thought that it was too shaky, but I realized that it wasn’t the actual footage that was shaky but that there was something wrong with the projector that was showing the dailies. With Stanley, you couldn’t just come out and say that. With Stanley, you had to be diplomatic about how you approached him about things like that. I told him, and he just couldn’t get his mind around it, so we ended up shooting it all over again. We ended up shooting it about five times actually” (Brian Johnson Interview).

For the “Moon bus cockpit: Two readouts were prepared specifically for this view; they were shot in 35mm on [an] animation stand and projected in 16mm from [the] back of [the] set. [The] [m]oon terrain seen through windows was photographed later and matted in” (Making 108).

The spacesuits worn by the men are a silver version of the colored suits worn by the crew of the discovery in the next segment. The popular YouTube channel Tested recently featured a video in which Adam Savage of Mythbusters and Astronaut Chris Hadfield walk around Comic-Con in replicas of the TMA-1 spacesuit that Savage made himself—and I’ll put the link in the description if you would like to check it out.

Harry Lange: “This is a helmet I’ve designed that will be worn in the film by the six astronauts that will go into the moonbase.”

Narrator: “What’s the blue patch on the back?”

Harry Lange: “Oh back here? These are memory packages, which can be inserted at will by… from the main station, which will supply the astronauts with additional information.”

Much like the space station set, depth is deliberately given to the shot by way of the red cockpit in the background. The interesting thing is this closer shot of Floyd. He doesn’t say anything of particular importance in the shot, so my best guess would be that either Floyd was facing away from the camera too much during some of his lines or Kubrick liked the first half of the wide shot in one take and the second half of the wide shot in a different take and simply stitched them together with the closer shot of Floyd.

Either way, the blocking in the wide shot forms a nice triangle and shifts our focus from character to character as they speak. Much like most of the Dawn of Man sequence as well as the conversation with the Russian scientists, this wide shot is making us work. In essence, we are forced to edit the scene in our own mind by choosing where to look, which in turn, stimulates our intellect right before one of the most thought provoking scenes in the entire film—the excavation of TMA-1.

TMA-1 refers to Tycho Magnetic Anomaly-1—Tycho being the crater closest to where the monolith was buried. The two other men in this scene are Halvorsen and Michaels, who were seated on either side of Floyd in the boardroom scene. There is actually a great deal of dialogue in the script that was cut. In fact, the Moon bus scene in the script originally had Floyd silently going over satellite photos while Halvorsen and Michaels talk. What’s interesting is that it is described in the script as: “A few seats away, Michaels and Halvorsen carry out a very banal administrative conversation in low tones. It should revolve around something utterly irrelevant to the circumstances and very much like the kind of discussion one hears all the time in other organizations” (Screenplay).

Finally, we arrive at the Tycho Magnetic Anomaly scene in which Floyd interacts with the monolith for the first time. Incidentally, this was the first day of shooting, which happened to be December 29th, 1965 at the Shepperton Studios. This scene was filmed at Shepperton instead of MGM Borehamwood—where most of the other scenes were filmed—because Shepperton was the only studio that could accommodate the massive set (Ordway Retrospect).

Publicist for the film Ivor Powell recalls the set: “Given that it was on a studio soundstage, we couldn’t dig any holes in the ground, so all of that had to be built up into the air.   That set went about 20 [feet] up in the air.   It gave a great illusion that the Monolith was down in this pit” (Ivor Powell Interview).

The pit itself was “60 feet by 120 feet” and actually 60 feet deep. A very large amount of sand was brought in and “was washed, dried, and given color and texture similar to [the] Moon’s” (Making 109).

when the Lunar terrain model was matted in (Making 109). In order to achieve this, everything around the excavation site had to be covered in black felt so they could replace it with the Lunar terrain (Commentary). These are shots while the set was still under construction. They ended up holding these shots in a vault until the special effects photography necessary to finish the shot was completed.

As I mentioned in the Dawn of Man sequence, the monolith was originally going to be a tetrahedron and in this early concept drawing, we can see what the TMA-1 set could have looked like if the design wasn’t changed.

The music in this sequence is by a Hungarian composer named Gyorgy Ligeti and it has been forever linked to the film much in the same way the Blue Danube was. We also heard this piece in the Dawn of Man sequence.

In an interview, Special Effects Artist Bryan Loftus speaks about how Kubrick came to choose this music.

“The Ligetti music that Stanley used in 2001 was suggested to him by his wife Christiane.  She had been at home listening to it on the radio because there had been some sort of concert on the air and when she heard it — she rung him up and told him about it and he put out a memo that read something like: In case it is as extraordinary as Christiane says, we should be prepared to contact the composer…” (Bryan Loftus Interview).

This piece of music is used as somewhat of a leit motif as it can be heard almost every time the monolith is seen on screen. The same can be said about “Also sprach Zarathustra“ by Richard Strauss and its signifying a change in human evolution.

You’ll notice that the only thing we hear throughout this scene—besides the piercing tone at the very end—is the Ligetti music. It is quite fitting, really—Ligetti’s Requiem is mostly made of human vocals, but it sounds pretty far from human. Now, Kubrick rewrote the script many many times, but it is really enlightening to read some of the dialogue that was cut out before the film was shot. Perhaps the most fascinating dialogue exchange is from this scene, which ultimately contained no dialogue whatsoever in the final film. In the screenplay, there is a great deal of dialogue between the men, presumably over the radio, as they descend upon the excavated monolith. Some of this dialogue occurs during the Moonbus scene in the final film, but there is an interesting excerpt that didn’t make the cut and it goes like this:

Floyd: “Any ideas about the colour?”

Michaels: “Well, not really. At first glance, black would suggest something sun-powered, but then why would anyone deliberately bury a sun-powered device?”

Floyd: “Has it been exposed to any sun before now?”

Michaels: “I don’t think it has, but I’d like to check that. Simpson, what’s the log on that?”

Simpson: “The first surface was exposed at 0843 on 12th April… Let me see… that would have been forty-five minutes after Lunar sun-set. I see here that special lighting equipment had to be brought up before any further work could be done.”

Floyd: “And so this is the first sun that it’s had in four million years.” (Screenplay)

And you’ll notice that the shot that immediately follows the shot of the men in pain from the high-pitched tone is this one.

Arthur C. Clarke: “We finally settled on one short story originally called ‘The Sentinel,’ which is about the discovery of an artifact on the moon, which had left there millions of years ago by some other civilization and which I suggest was a kind of burglar alarm to trigger the news that we had escaped from our planetary cradle and were about to invade the universe.”

So the tone signifies a signal that happens as a direct result of the monolith being exposed to sunlight, which makes sense why the intelligent beings would bury it—to notify them that mankind has reached the level of technology to find it. Some have pointed out that the high-pitched tone is not actually being emitted from the monolith itself, but rather it is the monolith’s signal that is causing the radios in the men’s helmets to emit the tone.

The signal is explained a bit at the very end of the Jupiter mission segment when a recording of Floyd is played to Dave on a monitor inside HAL’s brain.

This scene is perfectly shot. We get both an insider’s view—with the handheld shots—and an outsider’s view—with the long shots and yet, it doesn’t feel jarring in the slightest. The handheld shots were done by Kubrick himself and you can even see a reflection of Kubrick in Floyd’s helmet in this shot, if you look hard enough.

Now, let’s see if we can try and work out the mindset behind some of these shot decisions. For one, the blocking is appropriately stylized in this shot and appears very deliberate—almost like a painting. It seems to resemble what you might find on the cover of a science fiction novel. Perhaps it was used as a way to lean more toward Arthur C. Clarke than Flash Gordon. Regardless, it works beautifully to introduce the mood of the scene.

The hand-held shots allow the audience to experience the mystery and intrigue of the scene as a participant—we feel as though we are one of these astronauts seeing the monolith up close for the first time. We even see lens flairs, which would be seen by the astronauts through their helmets. We also get a few extreme long-shots that not only establish the spatial layout and allows us to keep track of the subjects spatially, but it gives us an almost omnipresent point-of-view, much like what we would expect the other-worldly beings to be experiencing.

After another hand-held tracking shot that circles around the monolith, showing its stature, we then get a shot where the monolith takes up half of the screen. This empowers the image of the monolith even more. The monolith in this scene is twelve feet tall, but it seems even bigger and it seems to have immense power. With these few shots, Kubrick has managed to make what is essentially a rectangular piece of wood painted black the most mysterious, captivating, and imposing object in cinema history.

The setup for this beautiful low-angle shot of Floyd approaching the monolith can be seen here. In this shot the surface of the black monolith appears white because of the reflection of the light. The monolith’s surface also reflects Floyd’s hand as he touches it in such a way that it almost appears as if he is making physical contact with an otherworldly entity. The light makes the front of the monolith well defined in the frame and, in the close-up, splits the frame in half with what looks like a white line down almost the center with the left half having the light and Floyd’s hand and the right half being mostly dark and mysterious.

And the setup for this wide-angle long shot is, I believe, depicted here. Kubrick kneels beside the camera. Again, the blocking works beautifully here and depicts the astronauts surrounding the monolith almost as if it is an alien itself, captured by man. We can see that the stature of the monolith in this shot is considerably diminished compared to the previous shot, which relieves some of the tension of the scene. The previous shot was the peak of the scene—we did not know what would happen when Floyd touched the monolith, but now we have our answer—nothing. We went from reaching out and touching the unknown, to immediately celebrating by taking a picture in front of it. However, by relieving this tension, the mysterious piercing tone catches us completely off guard and clues us in that we actually know nothing of what this thing is. 

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Special thanks to:

Zero Gravity Toilet instructions –


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 Dir. Stanley Kubrick)

Adam Savage and Chris Hadfield at ComicCon-…

The Making of Kubrick’s 2001 – Edited by Jerome Agel (special thanks to La Familia Film)…

A vintage article from American Cinematographer by Douglas Trumbull on creating Special Effects for 2001 A Space Odyssey…

DOUGLAS TRUMBULL | Master Class | Higher Learning…

Stanley Kubrick | 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) | Making of a Myth…

2001: A Space Odyssey — A Look Behind the Future…

Space Station Model in dump…

American Cinematographer – Douglas Trumbull…

Aries Auction –……

Brian Johnson Interview –…

Bryan Loftus Interview –…

Fred Ordway Interview –…

Ivor Powell Interview –…

Fred Ordway Retrospective –…

“I Am Running Down the Long Hallway of Viewmont Elementary” by Chris Zabriskie (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0…


This video essay was written, edited, and narrated by Tyler Knudsen.