I found this article by Garth Franklin on darkhorizons.com. I'm really interested to see this now...
There's still no images or footage as yet from Alfonso Cuarón's anticipated sci-fi drama "Gravity" starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, but some new details have emerged from a recent digital design conference reports Immersed in Movies (via First Showing).
As we know, the space survival tale deals with an astronaut stuck floating in Earth orbit and will feature extended long shots. Just how long though will surprise you when you consider an average two hour film (ie. a non-Michael Bay/Paul Greengrass cut-a-thon) has around 1,300-1,500 shots.
Chris deFaria, who oversees development of VFX and animation at Warners, recounts his conversation with Cuaron about it - "I said, 'How long?' And he said he wanted the first shot to be really long. And I said, 'You mean, 40 seconds?' 'No, 17 minutes.' So it ends up the film only has 156 shots in the entire two-hour movie, many of them six, eight, ten minutes long."
Because the film employs so much computer animation, the filmmaking team tried a different approach to the material - instead of making a live-action film with a massive amount of CG animation, they came at it from the perspective of a CG animated film with some live-action elements incorporated in.
deFaria says "Instead of trying to create real people and what they're doing, let's turn it around and create almost an entirely animated film and then backwards engineer the people into that film. As a matter of fact, let's not even engineer the people into the film, let's engineer their faces. So you've got these little faces inside these little helmets."
Don't think it was a cake walk though for those filming the live action elements - "When we began to bring in both the production designer and the DP we realized that we were committing to many things, not just shot design but lighting, direction, every prop, every single doorway, every single distance so that when we shot somebody’s eyes, they were converging at the right distance point. And we had a myriad of tools to deal with that. But we didn’t create the virtual world and let the live action drive what was ultimately going to be the shot. We actually created the shot and then made the live action work within it.”
Source : http://www.darkhorizons.com/news/23561/cuaron-s-gravity-a-cg-animated-film