Look up any image of the solar system, and you’re bound to see the same thing: all eight planets (sorry, Pluto) and the sun in their proper order mapped out with orbital lines. It’s helpful–but often inaccurate.
What’s hard to visualize is the scale of the planets’ sizes and the vast distances between them. No dinky model with a lamp as the sun and the planets represented by a variety of tennis, golf, and Ping-Pong balls will do (hate to break it to you, fourth-graders). So writer and filmmaker Wylie Overstreet, along with director Alex Gorosh, set out to create what they’re calling “the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits,” and they documented their project in the gorgeously shot video To Scale.
“If you put the orbits to scale on a piece of paper, the planets become microscopic,” Overstreet says in the clip. “There is literally not an image that adequately shows you what it actually looks like from out there.”
To get the proper scale of the solar system, Overstreet and his team needed at least seven miles of nothing–enter the land of Burning Man. Constructed and shot in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, To Scale details the effort and accuracy of creating a live model that’s about 1:847,638,000 in scale, using GPS calculations, homemade tools to dig up orbital lines, and well-lit glass spheres for planets.
“We are on a marble floating in the middle of nothing,” Overstreet says. “And you sort of come face-to-face with that–it’s staggering.”
Check out how To Scale came together in the behind-the-scenes video below.