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While many movies have been converted from 35mm to the larger IMAX format, next year's release of the new Batman movie "The Dark Knight" will treat viewers with four sequences filmed using IMAX cameras.
Warner Bros. Pictures announced today that director Christopher Nolan is filming four sequences of the movie in the larger format to create a bigger impact when seen in an IMAX theater. The first such scene is the introduction of Batman nemesis, The Joker.
I've not been a big fan of the recent "IMAX Experience" presentations that I've seen. Because these movies use 35mm film as a source, blowing them up to the larger IMAX format doesn't add any picture quality. Often, it can lead to grainy visuals, and the IMAX screen is much taller than normal 35mm screens in relation to its width (its aspect ratio), so either the movie must be slightly cropped to fill the screen, or there are black bars at the top and bottom of the IMAX screen.
I like the idea that they are actually filming parts of the movie in a larger format than 35mm. Many years ago, it was common for the big movie releases to be filmed in 70mm, which has a film negative that is much larger than 35mm. Some of the last movies to be filmed in the 70mm (actually 65mm) format was "Hamlet" in 1996 and "Far and Away" in 1992. If you were fortunate enough (as I was) to view "Far and Away" projected in 70mm back in 1992, you know the impact that it can have on the visuals in a movie!
In a USA Today article, Nolan is quoted as saying that the IMAX cameras were noisy to work with, creating issues for recording dialog. I wonder why they didn't use one of the many still-available 65mm cameras that were made specifically for the purpose of filming movies? Mr. Nolan, if you're reading this, go rent some 65mm cameras and film the remainder of the movie with them!
It will be interesting to see how they handle the transitions between the standard part of the movie and the IMAX sequences, and if the quality difference is ultimately noticeable (I believe it would have to be).
The official press release from Warner Bros. Pictures is included below.
Warner Bros. Pictures Takes "The Dark Knight" to the IMAX
Groundbreaking Use of IMAX® Cameras in the Filming of a Major Motion Picture Will Result in an Enhanced Viewing Experience for All Audiences
May 29, 2007 02:32 PM Central Daylight Time
BURBANK, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--In an unprecedented move, director Christopher Nolan is filming four sequences in the next installment of Warner Bros. Pictures’ Batman franchise, “The Dark Knight,” with extremely high resolution IMAX® cameras using the giant 15/70 film format. The announcement was made today by Jeff Robinov, President of Production, Warner Bros. Pictures. While it is not unique for a feature lensed on traditional 35mm film to be re-mastered to screen in IMAX® theatres, this marks the first time ever that a major feature film has been even partially shot using IMAX cameras, marking a revolutionary integration of the two film formats.
The marriage of footage filmed with IMAX and 35mm cameras in the final feature will have a major impact on the audience’s viewing experience, whether seeing “The Dark Knight” in an IMAX or traditional theatre. When the scenes shot on IMAX cameras are shown in IMAX theatres, the aspect ratio will morph to 1.43 to 1, expanding the image to fill the entire screen and magnifying the overall effect, both literally and figuratively.
In making the announcement, Jeff Robinov stated, “Warner Bros. has always been committed to advancing the art of filmmaking. The use of IMAX cameras to film select scenes in an action feature is a great step forward in big-screen entertainment, especially in the talented hands of Christopher Nolan. We can’t wait to see the results, and we think audiences will share our excitement when the movie opens on July 18, 2008.”
The first of the scenes, including a prologue that introduces Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker, was shot in April, several weeks in advance of the actual start of principal photography. Additional selected scenes are being filmed with IMAX cameras during the course of production on “The Dark Knight.”
Director Christopher Nolan added, “In continuing the story of such a great icon I’m thrilled to be able to expand the scope of the film, not just in terms of its story, but in giving Batman and The Joker the largest possible canvas on which to face off. No existing technology compares with the IMAX format in terms of its ability to throw the audience into the action, and we’re very proud and excited to use this technology in a way that no one has before.”
Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. President of Domestic Distribution, offered, “Chris has been a huge fan of IMAX technology for a long time. It will be a groundbreaking event to see him incorporate the use of IMAX cameras into the 35mm presentation of ‘The Dark Knight’ when it opens nationwide on July 18, 2008, day-and-date with IMAX theatres.”
“Mr. Nolan’s enthusiasm towards IMAX, combined with the success of ‘Batman Begins’ in IMAX theatres underscores the significant impact that The IMAX Experience® has on audiences and the role IMAX can play in providing filmmakers with innovative ways to deliver movies,” said IMAX Co-Chairmen and Co-CEOs Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler. “We are very excited to continue breaking new ground with Warner Bros. Pictures, and we look forward to sharing Mr. Nolan’s new picture with our customers and their patrons next summer.”
Greg Foster, Chairman and President of IMAX Filmed Entertainment, added, “Chris shares our vision that the moviegoing experience should transport audiences into the action. His innovative use of IMAX cameras to film scenes in ‘The Dark Knight’ will allow our crystal clear images, 14 thousand watts of digital surround sound, and screens up to eight-stories tall to give Batman fans the most immersive cinematic experience in the world. It is entertainment in a big, big way.”
This is not the first time that Warner Bros. Pictures has set a new standard in its association with IMAX. Christopher Nolan’s 2005 blockbuster “Batman Begins” was the first action feature to play on IMAX screens in museums as well as multiplexes, after being digitally remastered for the IMAX Experience with proprietary IMAX DMR® technology.
In 2006, “Superman Returns” became the world’s first live-action feature to have selected segments converted from 2D into IMAX® 3D. Most recently, the mega-hit “300” obliterated all previous attendance records at IMAX theatres in its record-breaking opening weekend in March.
The follow-up to the action hit “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne. In the new film, Batman raises the stakes in his war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to dismantle the remaining criminal organizations that plague the city streets. The partnership proves to be effective, but they soon find themselves prey to a reign of chaos unleashed by a rising criminal mastermind known to the terrified citizens of Gotham as The Joker.
The film also stars Academy Award winner Michael Caine (“The Cider House Rules”) as Alfred; Academy Award nominee Heath Ledger (“Brokeback Mountain”) as arch-villain The Joker; Gary Oldman as Lieutenant Jim Gordon; Aaron Eckhart as District Attorney Harvey Dent, who becomes better known as another of Batman’s arch-nemeses, Two-Face; Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes; and Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (“Million Dollar Baby”) as Lucius Fox.
“The Dark Knight” is being produced by Emma Thomas, Charles Roven and Christopher Nolan, with Kevin De La Noy, Benjamin Melniker and Michael E. Uslan serving as executive producers. Nolan is directing the film from a screenplay written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, story by Christopher Nolan & David Goyer. “The Dark Knight” is based upon Batman characters created by Bob Kane and published by DC Comics.
“The Dark Knight” will be presented by Warner Bros. Pictures in association with Legendary Pictures. The film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures.
IMAX Corporation is one of the world’s leading entertainment technology companies, specializing in digital and film-based motion picture technologies. The worldwide IMAX network is among the most important and successful theatrical distribution platforms for major event Hollywood films around the globe, with IMAX theatres delivering the world’s best cinematic presentations using proprietary IMAX, IMAX 3D, and IMAX DMR technology. IMAX DMR is the Company’s groundbreaking digital remastering technology that allows it to transform digitally virtually any conventional motion picture into the unparalleled image and sound quality of The IMAX Experience. IMAX’s renowned projectors display crystal-clear images on the world’s biggest screens, and the IMAX brand is recognized throughout the world for extraordinary and immersive entertainment experiences for consumers. As of September 30, 2006, there were 280 IMAX theatres operating in 40 countries. IMAX®, IMAX® 3D, IMAX DMR®, IMAX MPX® and The IMAX Experience® are trademarks of IMAX Corporation. More information on the Company can be found at www.imax.com.
Source: Warner Bros. Press Release
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