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'A Beautiful Planet' Take a Bold New Look at the Earth in IMAX 3D

A Beautiful Planet Take a Bold New Look at the Earth in IMAX 3D
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Highlights

It\'s the first IMAX space feature to use digital cameras as well as off-the shelf shooters (the Canon EOS C500 and 1D-C). And it\'s also the first film from IMAX to use SpaceX\'s Dragon spacecraft to ship equipment to the ISS.

IMAX films shot in space aren't anything new, but with A Beautiful Planet, longtime IMAX director Toni Myers still manages to show us entirely new perspectives of Earth. Shot on the International Space Station by several crews (including internet sensation Scott Kelly) and narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, it's a groundbreaking film in many respects: It's the first IMAX space feature to use digital cameras as well as off-the shelf shooters (the Canon EOS C500 and 1D-C). And it's also the first film from IMAX to use SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft to ship equipment to the ISS.

While A Beautiful Planet uses converted 3D footage (it wasn't shot with actual 3D cameras), there's still an immense sense of depth to the imagery. The film also evokes the Spaceship Earth concept, which centers on the idea that we're all traveling together on an organic craft with limited resources. It's hard not to be taken aback when you see how dry the Colorado River Basin appears from space, which has led to droughts in California and surrounding states, or when you see how much of Brazil's rainforests have been destroyed. In many ways, the film is a call to arms for the next generation of would-be environmentalists.

For her new IMAX documentary about planet Earth, director Toni Myers knew she wanted footage from the International Space Station. But she couldn’t send up a crate of old-school IMAX equipment—transport ships have more important cargo to carry.

So astronauts shot A Beautiful Planet, which comes out in April, entirely with digital cameras. They’re smaller and easier to use than their analog predecessors, and Myers didn’t have to wait around for the footage—it downloaded straight to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Cinematographer James Neihouse trained the astronauts to frame, light, and shoot footage from aboard the ISS. The crew—which included social media sensations Scott Kelly and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti—set up Canon DSLRs around the station, shooting through windows to capture rare views of earthly phenomena, like the northern lights.

The astronauts even replaced the interior panel of one window to get a smudge- and scratch-free shot, which “pretty much took an act of Congress,” Neihouse says. Over the course of filming, the cameras circled Earth more than 7,000 times, eventually traveling some 189 million miles.

But the cameras are unlikely to make the 250-mile trip back to the surface. It’s cheaper to let them burn up on reentry with the rest of the station’s trash.

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