Hubble 3D, premier experience

Hubble 3D, premier experience

Thank you IMAX and filmmaker Toni Myers for providing audiences who think they saw 3D for the first time when watching “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland” with an example of how much more dynamic 3D can be in the visually and existentially impactful “Hubble 3D,” opening in about 50 original large format IMAX theaters on Friday (March 15).

And thank you for demonstrating once again how a good filmmaker can bring 3D images way off the screen and keep it in the viewer’s face almost continually for maximum dynamic effect without using a single gimmick of poking anything at the camera, without making us feel like we are in a theme park attraction, and without giving us eye or brain fatigue.

(Story continues below the following video from the March 11 premiere at the California Science Center, including interviews with Myers and astronaut Mike Massimino.)

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IMAX and Myers have been doing this over and over again for years; they did it last year with the Myers-produced “Under the Sea,” which was awarded by this 3DHollywood.net site as the Overall Best 3D Experience of 2009; and they have done it again in returning to space inside the Space Shuttle during a 2009 mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

Myers told 3DHollywood.net (in video above) that she and her filmmaking partners approach 3D the exact opposite of their Hollywood brethren who, so far, use what she characterizes as a more cautious approach, or at least prefer to take the image depth behind the screen rather than in front.

For 43 minutes you’ll swear you are right inside the cramped shuttle cabin with the astronauts who appear only inches away. You’ll feel like you are one of the lucky ones on the bleachers at Cape Canaveral cheering the spectacular launch of the shuttle; that is, until you feel like you’re one of the birds almost too close to the lift-off and dangerously close to the torrent of water below the soon-to-be-massive flames from the black rocket cones moments before ignition. You sense the tedium and nervous tension as astronauts work exhaustively in the silent dark vacuum of space to remove dozens of screws — a task they liken to performing brain surgery while wearing boxing gloves — all the while aware that the tiniest rip in their own gloves could be fatal.

Astronaut Mike Massimino says Myers’ IMAX 3D production is so realistic that for the first time he doesn’t feel frustrated at not being able to convey to his family and friends the grandeur and exhilaration he felt on previous missions.

And finally you’ll feel a very different kind of star-struck and humbled by the 3D computer-generated fly-bys of star Sirius and Orion’s Belt and beyond our Milky Way to neighboring galaxy Andromeda and the Virgo Cluster of two thousand galaxies, just one of which is ten times bigger than the Milky Way.

You can practically turn your head left and right to see the celestial bodies sail past. You have never felt so surrounded by stars or simultaneously awestruck and insignificant.

In addition to the primary behemoth 700-pound IMAX 3D camera fixed in the cargo bay loaded with nearly 1-mile of film that yields only 8-minutes of footage and which therefore had to be judiciously turned on and off and affixed with the proper lenses and correct exposure settings each time by astronauts who were trained for months by Myers, the flight also included several HD cameras that were manipulated back home so the images filled the seven-story tall IMAX film frame and were converted to 3D.

For the space flight simulation, Myers, in cooperation with NASA, used actual data and images from the Hubble and created by the imaging team at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and the computing facilities at the Advanced Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. One can imagine that the resulting visualization could look very close to an actual inter-galaxy flight light-years in the future.

Warner Bros., which is distributing the film, will expand the release to newer and smaller digital IMAX screens in multiplexes such as AMC in August. Here’s hoping that Hollywood filmmakers embarking on their maiden 3D voyage take 43-minutes to learn just how dynamic and potentially powerful 3D is when used properly with restrained aggression.

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  1. It’s a shame that the IMAX theaters in my area are such an inconvenience to get to,this looks like it may be worth negotiating the traffic nightmare to attend a showing of this feature.