Tuesday, September 26

To the Max


A&E


Thursday, February 5, 1998

To the Max

FILM: The Imax Theater goes bigger and deeper

with 3-D technology

By Stacy Sare

Daily Bruin Contributor

Wearing gigantic glasses, in the newly renovated 480-seat Imax
theater, viewers ooh, ahh and scream, trying to grasp the moving
images that jump right off the screen. The state-of -the-art
technology brings out the "inner child" in everyone.

After the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed many of the Museum of
Science and Industry’s buildings and exhibit halls, the staff
decided to do a complete renovation of the theater and museum
exhibits.

But they wanted to do more than just rebuild.

"We felt there was a need for some kind of cohesiveness to bring
science under one roof programmatically as well as
architecturally," says Joe DeAmicis, vice president of marketing
for the Imax Theater. "We wanted to create a highly immersive
cinematic experience."

DeAmicis is also excited about the project from a personal
standpoint – as a father. "The reason why I’m so enthusiastic about
it is that there’s so much commercial ‘dreck’ out there," DeAmicis
says. "There’s so much commercial product in the way of movies and
to find a good G-rated movie or to find a good educational film for
the kids is so hard."

The new Imax, a non-profit educationally focused theater, was
designed by award-winning architectural firm The Zimmer Gunsul
Frasca partnership. The design features 480 stadium-style seats
with a seven-story screen-two stories higher than the older screen
and 91 feet wide.

What gets the audience so involved is the Imax’s new 3-D
capabilities. By projecting two pieces of film together
simultaneously with a single camera, as opposed to old-fashioned
3-D methods that used two cameras, a more realistic shot is
achieved.

But what makes this look so real?

Technical supervisor Kevin Carter says it’s done by "tricking
the brain." "Essentially what you’re trying to do is recreate the
natural phenomenon of seeing with the left eye and the right eye,"
Carter explains.

In three-dimensional filming, the camera takes a slightly
off-set image of what the left and right eyes will see. This is how
we create dimension naturally with our eyes and brain. Then two
pieces of film pass through the camera and a polarizing filter.
Carter says that the filters in the projector and special glasses
assure that the correct eye sees the correct roll of film.

Audience members who attended advanced screenings were amazed at
this new technology.

"I feel like I’ve seen the future," says audience member Arnie
Bok. "It was a feeling of being part of the movie rather than just
watching it. It was a unique sensation. My hearing, my eyesight,
all my senses felt like they were in action. It was
stimulating."

Carter admits that most people who came in did not expect to be
impressed by the three-dimensional technology.

"They’d come in and say, ‘Oh 3-D’s not that much.’ They’d say,
‘It’s more or less flat and then some object comes out at you,’"
Carter recalls. "Then they’re exposed to Imax 3-D and they’re all
knocked out. You have a true sense of depth. It’s really
amazing."

And what better way to show off Imax’s new sense of depth than
with the film "Into the Deep," which explores a giant kelp forest
off the shores of Southern California.

But with all the fascination generated by the mystic 3-D
underwater world, DeAmicis says that "Into the Deep" will be the
theater’s only three-dimensional film. The museum wants to keep the
focus on education.

"There are other 3-D movies produced by Imax Technology, but
they have not been true educational films and we probably won’t be
bringing them in," DeAmicis reveals. "We’re not a commercial
theater and we don’t want the market to think we are. They have to
be educationally suitable and consistent with who we are. If the
product is educationally suitable then we will bring other movies
in."

Aside from the new visual technology, the theater makes auditory
history with its massive sound system designed by Sonics, a company
that custom designs sound systems for theaters.

The 44 speakers and 66 channels of surround sound add a tingling
sensation to the educational experience.

Outside the theater, Imax continues the dialogue of education in
the California Science Center with its many exhibits fusing art
with science.

DeAmicis says the museum wants to promote this fusion.

"When the science center was planned they realized that there is
a play between both (art and science). There’s a dynamism between
both," DeAmicis says. "When they built this place, they looked for
opportunities where art and science could be showcased. You see it
in the pavilion area where you have a DNA bench made out of
granite, beautifully sculpted."

The museum, which is divided into four different worlds
(Creative World, World of Life, World of the Pacific and Worlds
Beyond), combines the two by using multimedia, granite sculptures
and gold and palladium leaf art to teach the mysteries of science.
These are only a few of the many exhibits at the museum.

Other exhibits include Tess, the animatronic transparent human
model, who teaches homeostasis as she interacts with Walt, a
cartoon character in a video.

There is also the Aerial, a sculpture with 1,578 gold and
palladium balls that hang over the DNA bench, and the Hypar, a
5,000-pound aluminum kinetic sculpture that contracts and expands
from 12 to 50 feet without losing its space.

The Creative World galleries use computer and digital imaging to
teach communication, transportation and how structures are made
strong It also offers visitors a chance to play the guitar, the
keyboard or the drums in a digital jam session.

Coupled with the museum, the restored Imax theater strives to
educate as well as entertain.

FILM: The newly renovated Imax theater will open to the public
Saturday, and will show "Into the Deep." For more information call
(213)744-2014.

AARON TOUT/Daily Bruin

The newly renovated Imax Theater.

AARON TOUT/Daily Bruin

The Imax Theater has a seven-story tall screen and 480
seats.

AARON TOUT/Daily Bruin

The sculpture of balls spiraling upward in the courtyard between
the Imax Theater and the museum resemble a DNA helix.

AARON TOUT/Daily Bruin

The projection booth houses the film, projector and the sound
system for the theater.

AARON TOUT/Daily Bruin

The 3D version of "Into the Deep" uses film 70mm wide, the
largest format of film stock.

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