How the Big Screen IMAX Experience Just Took a Quantum Leap Forward

 Cinematography, HDR Digital Cinema  Comments Off on How the Big Screen IMAX Experience Just Took a Quantum Leap Forward
May 152015


Only a fraction of the movie fans who spent $187.7 million opening weekend to see Avengers: Age of Ultron saw it as it appeared at Airbus IMAX Theater at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

 What was a big hit elsewhere was a literally huge one here: Six stories high and more than 85 feet wide, it is the first museum in the world to employ the newest laser technology. Its super sharp 4K laser system encased in two perfectly calibrated fridge-sized projectors is enhanced with a new 12 channel sound system with a sub-bass.

The likes of Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk have never been so formidable—or in 3D versions, so bright. The one drawback to 3D has long been that the glasses darkened objects on the screen.

 Technicians from IMAX who worked long hours right up to the Ultron opening demonstrated the next morning how the laser light source betters the old xenon bulb in brightness. “We’re 50 percent brighter than any cinema,” says IMAX executive vice president David Keighley. “That’s one reason you love our images—they seem more real.”

At the same time, the vivid white and colors from the screen are due to the deeper blacks it can also project. To demonstrate the sharpness between the two, Keighley didn’t show a clip from the Avengers hit, but a still black and white checkerboard pattern, whose borders never bled or wavered, yet boasted absolutely sharp lines and corners.

“If you’re a technical geek you should go wow,” he says.

Many did.

“I never thought we’d get that kind of resolution,” says Keighley, who has been involved in the post production of hundreds of IMAX films and has been the president of IMAX’s post production image and quality control subsidiary DKP 70mm Inc. for more than 40 years.

Keeping the black parts of the film absolutely black means filmmakers can alter at will the dimensions of the film’s border, as director Christopher Nolan did in 2008’s The Dark Knight and last year’s Interstellar. Those are two of the very few Hollywood hits made in 70 millimeter size that can play an IMAX screen. But now that the Udvar-Hazy Center has moved to digital projection, the many more popular Hollywood titles made that way can be shown at night, even as the daytime museum favorites such as Journey to SpaceD-Day: NormandyLiving in the Age of Airplanes and Hidden Universe are also further enhanced.

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The Beautiful Canadian Rockies Shine in the Photography of Chris Burkard

 Technique  Comments Off on The Beautiful Canadian Rockies Shine in the Photography of Chris Burkard
Mar 022015


“Chris Burkard likes to go off the beaten path with his photography.

His new photography book about Alberta, Canada, is a beautiful portfolio of his unique style –dramatic, inspiring landscape, with a human or two dwarfed in the foreground. His photographs simultaneously expose the beauty of the places he explores and encourage viewers immerse themselves in the great outdoors and allow nature to overpower the senses. To Burkard, immersing himself in Alberta involved nights spent under the stars, kayaking, polar plunges and a perfectly composed frame of each moment.

A senior staff photographer at Surfer magazine, Burkard has traveled the world documenting outdoor sports and adventure. Last year, Smithsonian magazine interviewed him about his trip with cold-water-surfers in Norway. I checked in with him again this year to ask about his recent trip to Alberta.

Were you mostly in the backcountry in Alberta?

We went through national parks like Jasper and Bamff. It was insane – such a cool project. We drove for two weeks through the region and explored as much as we could.

You and who else?

Just me and a friend. So much of my work is about going to explore a different perspective of a region, and that’s what the two of us were able to do. I try to go places where I can engage and be a part of my surroundings. So that’s what we did, and we were able to spend a lot of time exploring.

Take me through your process from arriving in a location to taking the shots that you are happy with.

That process comes down to what I’m doing beforehand. Sometimes, we’re exploring Google Earth, looking at trail maps, looking at photographs, just trying to examine everything we can, and looking into any place that might be of interest. In Alberta, we planned ahead of time.

We sat down and said, “we want to go to this canyon, this hot springs, see these waterfalls, this mountain range, hike this trail…” so when I get there, I have a better idea of what I want to shoot. But another big part of my process is also leaving myself open to experiences that just happen – the fun, exciting stuff that occurs at the last minute. It’s a mixture between being prepared and being available to experience things”

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