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ISTC 1996

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: Rene Sørensen, Chief projectionist IMAX Dome, Copenhagen Issue 47 - December 1996
ISTC 1996, The International Space Theatre Consortium recently held its 18th meeting in Barcelona, Spain. The 70mm Association Newsletter reporter Rene Sørensen was on the spot to report about new films in the Imax format.

The 18th International Space Theatre Consortiums conference was hosted by IMAX Port Well. The 440 seat IMAX Port Well Theatre is the first theatre in the world which is able to show both IMAX Dome, IMAX, IMAX 3D and IMAX HD. A sophisticated means of screen changeover, the Rodo system, allows the Imax Dome screen to be placed in front of the flat Imax screen safely and precisely. The theatre is very beautiful, situated on the harbor pier along with a big shopping center, eight 35mm cinemas and a large underwater museum. The area is visited by 12 million people per year.

I arrived in Barcelona with my colleagues on September 13, 1996 and on this first night "The Edge" was on the program. I described this film in issue #45.

Up bright and early on Saturday the 14th, the first film was shown at 8 am - "The Great American West" - a great film, perfectly suited for teaching American history. Afterwards we attended the first session, Films in Progress, where short sequences of films in production are shown. The most interesting sequence shown was from "Four Million Houseguests" - the unseen microscopic world of a charming country home coming to life in IMAX 3D. Release date: Summer 1997. From "Alaska" we saw fantastic scenes of northern light and wild life in Alaska. Release date April 1997. "Wales" - I look forward to this very amazing and exciting film. The film explores whales socialization, breeding and migration with a special focus on cetacean communication. Release date: Fall 1996. And last a few scenes from "Olympic Glory" which is being filmed during the winter Olympic Games in Japan 1998. Release date: 1999. Quite a big mouthful - and in my opinion a promising future with a lot of great and serious projects in progress. Time for lunch, which was enjoyed under the open sky - the weather was fantastic during the whole conference, so we took every opportunity to stay outside between sessions to catch the Spanish Indian Summer.

"L5 - First City in Space", presented by IMAX Corporation in 3D, was the next film on the programme. A spellbinding film. I forgot all about time and place and all about commenting on technical errors. We traveled to the year 2096, to the only port city in space, earth's first international colony. Through the eyes of a little girl growing up in this unique environment, audience experiences first-hand this incredible orbiting community and the challanges it must meet to survive in space. Fantastic graphics, and one step closer to feature films.

"Special Effects" presented by IMAX Corporation in 2D, was the next film. It takes you behind the scenes and shows you how much work that lies behind producing special effects for feature films. Effects from "Independence day", "Jumanji" and last but not least Lucasfilm Ltds special edition of "Star Wars" were shown. I am always impressed when I see how much time and money is spent on special effects, and most of it goes up in smoke in a few minutes. An exciting film - it is just a shame that only 1/3 of the film is filmed in IMAX; during the rest of the film only 1/4 of the screen is being used. It was getting late, but we still had time to enjoy a classical music concert in Palau de La Musica Catalana. The concert hall was built in 1908 and beautifully decorated with sculptures and ceramics. The concert was pure pleasure.

Sunday the 15th. The first meeting at 8.00 am concerning Maintenance of IMAX Theatres. There was no interesting news in this area. Most theatres spend a lot of time and money on system maintenance, but often forget the exhibition area and the screen, which is too bad, as the audience always notices things like that. Next session, Films in Progress #2. The first 3 films were presented by Ben Strassen from New Wave International from Bruxelles. First film "Thrill Ride". This film tracks the evolution of the motion simulator from its beginnings in the aerospace industry to its currents uses in the entertainment industry as the ultimate hi-tech roller coaster. Release date: July 1997. "Secrets of the Sand" is a true story of an eclectic team of amateurs and highly qualified scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who have begun to unlock the mysteries of the empty crater in the heart of Arabia. Release date: Spring 1998. "Opus" was the last of the 3 films and it seemed quite interesting. A fusion of sight and sound featuring state-of-the-art computer imagery and traditional stop motion animation as never before seen in 15/70mm. Release date: 1997 and 1998. The session continued with two other new films from other sources. "African Elephants", presented by Discovery Channel Pictures. An old bull elephant speaks with wisdom and humor of his life and the lives around him, stretched out across the face of Africa. Release date: Fall 1998. "Mission to Mir", presented by IMAX Corporation. Behind the scenes at the Russian and US space programs, and how they work together on Mir. I look very much forward to this film. When you cannot go out in space yourself, the next best is to experience it in IMAX. Release date: January 1997.

Also I am looking very much forward to 4 great productions from Greg MacGillivray. The titles and MacGillivray's perfectionism speak for themselves, they look so exciting that you just have to see the films: "The Magic of Flight". This film soars through the history of flight, from the Wright Brothers to the dramatic high speed acrobatics of the world renowned Blue Angels. Release date: February 1997. "Amazon". Witness the immense power, beauty and diversity of the Amazon region, from its source in the high Andes through the rain forest canopy and into the Amazon basin. Release date: April 1997. "Caves". This film explores the geomorphology, biology and conservation of caves. Release date 1998. "Everest". High among the geologic wonders of the Himalaya, the human body undergoes vital physiological changes as an international team of climbers struggles to the top of the world. Release date February 1998.

"Cosmic Voyage" was next on the program. The film was finished in the beginning of September. So far the best astronomy film I have seen, it explains our place in the cosmos, large, great and quite easy to understand. I am sure that the film is going to be a success all over the world. "Island Adventure" is about the fantastic nature on an island, near Madagasgar, which shows rain forest, volcanos, waterfalls etc. After this I could not manage to see more films. The day left me with many good impressions. Between all the films I got a chance to meet a lot of interesting people, all talking about large format. I was looking forward to my bed.

Monday the 16th was not scheduled with a lot of sessions. Technical Update was about how to use computer effects, however, you need a large computer to uptain the good quality. You have to remember that 15/70mm pictures are 10 times larger than a normal 4/35mm picture. A big dinner party, held in a castle outside Barcelona, was scheduled for the evening. There I got a chance to talk to Greg MacGillivray. Very exciting to hear about what is going on in the business from one of, in my opinion, the best film makers. I asked him about how he manages to pan the IMAX camera without creating a strobe effect, and why he has not taught other film makers how to do it. He answered..

Mr Greg MacGillivray: "...20 years ago I started to explain to the business how I solved this problem, and I take very opportunity to tell about it. But most film makers will not listen, and in many films we can see the result - unfortunately. However, what I do is to keep one field in focus, as it is impossible to keep the whole picture in focus. If you do not do this, you create the annoying strobe effect".

Greg is very skilled to make films to be shown in both Imax and Imax Dome. I think we talked for about 10 minutes. I could have spent the entire evening talking with the master himself, but a lot of others stood in line. We had a great time and did not arrive back at the hotel until 4.00 am.

After about 2 hours of sleep on Tuesday the 17th, I attended a 20 minute showing of the coming film "Indy Car". Very exciting, and I look forward to see more from this film. On to Work in Progress, which is about all the projects that hopefully will end with a film. 34 projects in all. A great deal of good films could turn out, however, most of the productions lack funds to go on and everybody knows how difficult it is to raise money. It is obvious that large format films are expanding rapidly, and our audiences can look forward to an exciting future with more and better films. Only one film left and the 18th ISTC conference had come to an end. "Momentum" in Imax HD, 48 frames per second. I have never seen a greater picture, which demands a lot of your projector. When the projector runs 48 frames per second, the speed and the gaps are twice the normal 24 frames per second, so the projector has only 1/4 of the normal time to make the loops. The projector has to be adjusted very precisely.

Most participants had left by now, but I was not quite finished myself. The past 4 days I had worked hard to get a chance to be allowed inside the projection room of the theatre. I succeeded and the chief projectionist picked me up. We had a small problem, however, he did not speak English and I do not speak Spanish. This was not going to stop me, we could still share our passion for the technique. Imax has developed a fantastic piece of equipment. Everything is computerized and with a lot of possibilities, which I will save for a later occasion.

The conference had ended and I was full of impressions and experiences. I enjoyed in full the 5 days, but I must admit that I looked forward to come home to my "own" projector. It was a great sight. So great that my Imax projector got an extra blob of oil for being so loyal. It has not got a motor controlled by frequency, it cannot show 3D, but the audience gets a fantastic experience, which is the most important.
 

Further in 70mm reading:

Euromax 2000
Euromax 1996

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