IMAX: Hubble 3D

by Jay Kerr on March 18, 2010 · 3 comments

in Documentaries

IMAX: Hubble 3D

IMAX: Hubble 3D (Director: Toni Myers): I never get tired of space doc­u­ment­aries, espe­cially when they’re as fas­cin­ating as Hubble 3D. The film’s breath­taking IMAX footage com­bined with images from Hubble create a unique cine­matic experience.

The Hubble Space Telescope was put into orbit in April 1990 and is the only tele­scope designed to be ser­viced by astro­nauts. In May 2009, NASA sent the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis to make vital repairs and upgrades to Hubble. Five space­walks were required and each of them was cap­tured by an IMAX 3D camera oper­ated by the astronauts.

Director of Photography James Neihouse trained the astro­nauts for 8 months in basic cine­ma­to­graphy and how to use the cum­ber­some IMAX 3D cam­eras (they weigh over 250 pounds each). A roll of IMAX film runs 5,000 feet, weighs 54 pounds and runs 8 minutes. With only one roll of film there was zero margin for error.

During a Q&A ses­sion I asked Neihouse if he was happy with the camera work of the astro­nauts. He said he was “very pleased with the footage” and ended up using about 90% of it in the final film.

Aside from the space­walk footage, the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis is spec­tac­ular and puts the viewer right on the launch pad. We’ve all seen Shuttle launches before but not like this! The sound recording of the launch is also incred­ible and required quite a number of micro­phones (sev­eral mics were incin­er­ated or blown trying to record the takeoff).

The thing that impressed me most about this film was the quality of the images cap­tured by Hubble. Twenty years of Hubble data was used to create some incred­ible 3D visu­al­iz­a­tions of sev­eral galaxies and solar systems.

“This is star travel, you’re right out there moving in space,” said dir­ector Toni Myers. The IMAX exper­i­ence really does make you feel like you’re floating in space. You quickly realize how small our planet and solar system is in the cosmos. I was truly blown away.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s name is fea­tured prom­in­ently on the movie poster but his voi­ceover nar­ra­tion in the film is under­stated and works quite well. Director Toni Myers gets full marks for using Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s ver­sion of Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World in the soundtrack.

I should also men­tion that the I watched the IMAX ver­sion of the film at the Ontario Science Centre’s OMNIMAX® Theatre and not the IMAX 3D ver­sion of the film. The Ontario Science Centre has an IMAX Dome theatre that wraps around the viewer.

It was inter­esting to hear James Neihouse say that he enjoyed parts of the film more in an IMAX Dome theatre than the 3D ver­sion. I’m curious to see what the 3D ver­sion of the film looks like.

IMAX: Hubble 3D opens in Toronto, Los Angeles, San Diego and Denver on March 19th.

Official site of the film



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