On most films, adding visual effects is part of the postproduction process. But on "Gravity," the editing and cinematography had to begin two months before shooting even started.
To prepare, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki -- who won his first Oscar Sunday night -- sifted through a library of photographs from the NASA library in an effort to make the film look as "naturalistic as possible," he said backstage.
"A lot of the lighting of the movie is based on those photographs," Lubezki said, clutching his Oscar. "We would have big meetings ... and try to define how each scene of the movie was going to look, but of course the last word was always his."
He being director Alfonso Cuarón, Lubezki's longtime friend and collaborator.
"I've been inspired by his curiosity of exploration," the cinematographer said. "It is true that I'm a fan of his."
Eager to deflect that praise, Cuarón started heaping compliments on someone else -- his leading actress, Sandra Bullock, whom he said he wasn't able to acknowledge enough on stage during the telecast.
"Everything we were doing was honoring Sandra Bullock's performance," the filmmaker said. "All the light and wizardry doesn't make a difference without the emotional life embodied by her."
Later in the evening, after receiving the directing prize, Cuarón added to reporters, "I don't think enough was said about Sandra."
Times staff writer Jeffrey Fleishman contributed to this report