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.