IMAX Announces New Technology To Convert "Apollo 13" Into Large Format Film

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Peter Kline, Mar 21, 2002.

  1. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    'Apollo' Relaunch Puts Imax in Orbit

    Tue Mar 19, 4:45 AM ET

    By Carl DiOrio

    HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - In a potentially watershed announcement portending major benefits to all involved, executives from Universal Pictures, producer Imagine Entertainment and Imax have scheduled a glitzy press event for Thursday to announce the summer re-release of "Apollo 13" in Imax's large-screen format.

    A similar venture involving Universal/Imagine's upcoming "Cat in the Hat" is also anticipated. Tom Hanks, who starred in 1995 space drama "Apollo," is expected to attend the Universal CityWalk event, but it wasn't clear if attached "Cat" star Mike Myers will be on hand.

    An exact date for the Imax-format "Apollo" re-release wasn't immediately available, but signs point to a late-summer bow.

    Executives such as Universal Studios president Ron Meyer and Universal Pictures chairman Stacey Snider are expected to be on hand for the press event, set for the Loews Cineplex megaplex in Universal City. Imagine principals Brian Grazer and Ron Howard are also anticipated, along with Imax co-CEOs Brad Wechsler and Rich Gelfond.

    The companies have been working on the Imax project for months, and executives were recently blown away by a screening of a new process for converting films to Imax specs, insiders said. The process represents a first-time ability to convert a conventional live-action print to Imax's large format.

    Previously, films including Warner Bros.' "The Matrix," Universal's "Jurassic Park III" and DreamWorks' "Gladiator" have been shown in a few Imax theaters. But those limited large-screen runs involved simply blowing up images projected from a conventional 35 mm negative.

    The new process is said to yield much more compelling results by converting conventional negatives to a 70mm Imax format, which offers vastly enhanced resolution. An Imax negative is both twice as wide and almost four times as long as a conventional one.

    There are also anticipated dramatic benefits for the bottom lines of those involved.

    For Universal and Imagine, the ability to distribute conventionally shot pictures on Imax screens represents a welcome opportunity to repurpose older films like "Apollo" at a time when re-releases are something of a Hollywood trend. "The Exorcist" grossed more than $100 million worldwide re-release for Warner Bros. a couple years ago, and Universal hopes to do similar biz when it unspools a 20th anniversary edition of "E.T." on Friday.

    The new Imax-conversion process also presents a new way of adding to the aggregate number of screens on new releases and simultaneously broadening both appeal and revenue.

    For large-screen pioneer Imax, the benefits could be even greater.

    The Toronto-based company has struggled in recent years to follow through on a pledge to Imax exhibitors that more dramatically appealing films would soon be available in the large-screen format. But to date that's mostly meant adding only Disney toons to the usual nature studies and scientific subjects, as technical aspects of the conversion process for animation are less daunting than for live-action films.

    The announcement of a major live actioner unspooling in the format would underscore the appeal of the conversion process, as well as restore exhibitors' hopes of eventually seeing a regular flow of mainstream movies. And that could help Imax's long languishing stock price.

    "There's been talk of a new conversion process (and) that would be very significant," said Kevin Skislock, an analyst with Irvine-based Laguna Research Partners who follows Imax. "There's been a question about how you can ask exhibitors to put up more Imax screens when there's an inadequate flow of product. Now, they may be able to tap into some instant product flow, and you could see a resurgence of new Imax theaters."

    It's believed the large-screen conversion process will cost studios about $2 million-$3 million per picture plus additional print costs. The process is proprietary to Imax, so though the technology could be used to convert conventional negatives to any of a number of large-screen formats, it won't be.

    Imax likely would authorize its use only for distribution to the 225 Imax-format theaters located in 30 countries worldwide. Those include about 100 U.S. installations.
     
  2. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    Does anyone here know how this is done? To me, it almost sounds impossible.
     
  3. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    I've been looking but so far no specific info. I know it uses computer enhancement techniques. One interesting thing is that is produces a silver based film product. Good news for future high def use? More info will follow on the process in the coming weeks. Patents Pending, Proprietary stuff I presume.
     
  4. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    One question I have is that Imax screens are close to 4:3 ratio so how are these new films being presented? Are they being basically Pan and Scanned or are they keeping the OAR and just using the full width of an Imax screen with 70mm film?
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I like the idea of centering the 2.35:1 image in the Imax frame.

    ...but that's a gigantic waste of space on the frame.

    Perhaps IMAX could develop an adaptor to show regular 70mm on Imax instead?
     
  6. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Patrick,

    I've been lucky enough to spend a little time in the booth at Sony's Lincoln Square IMAX theater in New York City. There's no need for an "adaptor" to run 70mm films, they have a 35mm setup for screening standard features there (most IMAX installations have a 35mm rig also). The 35mm rig they have is a combo 35/70 machine and could easily run regular 70mm prints, if the studios actually made some.

    I don't like the idea of blowing-up films to IMAX, even if they keep the image letterboxed. The immense viewing size of the IMAX screen is not intended for "normally" shot and edited films. Unless they only want to sell seats for the back 3 or 4 rows, the only seats that work, IMO, with non-IMAX films.

    What they could do - and won't - is to windowbox the film so it doesn't take up more than 50' of width on the IMAX screen. That way, the majority of the audience can see the film properly and the immense IMAX sound system can be shown off to great advantage.
     
  7. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    The new process takes care of those concerns, Peter. Ron Howard on CNBC this morning said he saw 4 segments that were incredible in their detail and lack of grain. Star scenes in the background had more depth and detail then any standard 35 mm release print he saw. He will supervise the rest of the transfer. He did say that he was initially concerned about close ups but they looked fine. He also said that if there was a "vertigo" problem or other such thing that it would be addressed during the transfer process. Yes, I know purists will be up in arms... and legs, but let's wait and see.

    It also means that future IMAX specific films can be made much cheaper and without the restrictions of the current system.

    This new process is not a straight transfer to 70mm film. It involves a lot more.
     
  8. Jason Harbaugh

    Jason Harbaugh Cinematographer

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    Peter Apruzzese,

    I used to host the Imax films at Lincoln's Square's Imax theatre back in 97-98. That setup there is amazing, and the sound...mmmmmm. But anyway, they used to(don't live there now so not sure if this still goes on) show 35mm films for the late show and it was windowboxed. Only took up about half the width and a fraction of the height of the screen but the picture was still the largest in the complex followed closely by the Loews screen.

    As I remember though, the picture didn't look that great, but not terrible. The sound is where it definately made up the difference though. I forgot the actual specs but I believe it was 35,000 watts of cell pulsing power.

    I would definately like to see one of these new transfers on it though.
     
  9. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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  10. Michael St. Clair

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  11. Jeff Kleist

    Jeff Kleist Executive Producer

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    I asked my friend about this last night. Don't forget the FX would have to be panned and scanned. I asked him if they could just re-render, and he said to forget it (he works at Sony Imageworks). He said the software for doing that movie is LONG gone, way obsolete and even if they have the files ona backup tape, the cost and trouble it would be to rerender them for IMAX resolution would be prohibitive

    I second concern about horrific grain. It's Super35 after all, and even if it's letterboxed, it's still a blowup of a low resolution image
     
  12. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Michael St. Clair,

    Thank you, that's exactly what I meant.

    Jason,

    Yes, that's the way I've seen them at the Sony. If they could do a high-quality blow-up to IMAX film and still use that smaller feature-film projected size, that would be ideal.
     
  13. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Without specifics on the process this discussion will go round in circles. I'll keep looking for more info when and if published.
     
  14. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    Digital Domain did the CGI for Apollo 13.

    Also, the scenes which used CGI were shot on VistaVision, so it's practically impossible to show the entire frame without cropping.

    Fantasia's "Sorceror's Apprentice" looked awful on the Imax screen, despite being restored by Cinesite (along with later-to-be-omitted sequences, Dance of the Hours, Nutcracker, and clips later inserted into the intro)
     
  15. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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    Doesn't VistaVision have a useable 1.66:1 aspect ratio?
    I believe it does, but of course we don't know if the
    SFX crew used the entire Vistavision area for the completed
    special effects if they thought they would only need
    2.35:1. ..Or maybe they anticipated video and went to at
    least 1.85?
    In any case, here's some more PR weblinks on the conversion
    process as well as a before and after comparison pic.
    http://prn.newscom.com/cgi-bin/pub/s...iew&tr=1&row=1
    http://www.corporate-ir.net/ireye/ir...=400&layout=11
     
  16. Mark Pfeiffer

    Mark Pfeiffer Screenwriter

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    Jeffrey Wells comments on this in his latest column at reel.com. (Read it here.)
    He says, in part,
     
  17. Michael St. Clair

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    So, live shots of Super35 will be open-matte, effects shots will be panned and scanned, and the image will be larger than your field of view, destroying whatever intended composition (if any) remains, because you can't whip your head around violently enough absorb everything in realtime.
    This is all about money, and nothing about art. Ron Howard is for it, well, Lucas is for Greedo shooting first. Directors can sell out and/or go soft in the head. Frankly, films are a collaboration, and for Apollo 13 I'd love to know what these guys think of this butchery:
    Dean Cundey (Cinematographer)
    Erik Nash (effects DP)
    David Nowell (weightless DP)
    Raymond Stella (second unit DP)
    The money-grubbing fiends at IMAX and the studios can keep this crap as far as I'm concerned. They won't get my 10 bucks.
     
  18. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

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    What about the "money grubbing" types for putting these films on home video? Isn't that a distortion of the intent of the film, which was to be shown on a theatre screen with a audience of more then a few people, a collective experience? Michael, you're entitled to your opinion of course, but I think you are being a bit harsh - particularly before seeing the IMAX version. [​IMG]
     
  19. Steve Felix

    Steve Felix Supporting Actor

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    I lean towards Michael's point of view in this matter. Shooting for IMAX is an entirely different ballgame than 35mm. It sounds like a gimmick and I don't think it will take off; regular audiences will probably be sensitive to the "head-whipping" issue.

    The OAR issue is enough to place me against the idea.

    It's too bad, I think IMAX is wonderful, and I wish there were more good films made originally for the format. (Like "Cosmic Voyage.")
     
  20. Michael St. Clair

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