THE KINOTECH BLOG AWARDS PT 1

It’s awards season.  So The Blog decided why the heck not.

FOR BEING CINEMATOGRAPHER TO THE STARS: JAMES NEIHOUSE

He’s been working on IMAX films for nearly four decades.  Sports, wildlife, and the oceans are all within his realm.  But he’s most famous for, to paraphrase Casey Kasem, keeping his feet on the ground and reaching for the stars.  Neihouse has captured all the land scenes in every IMAX space shuttle film since “The Dream is Alive” and he’s trained the astronauts how to film for the IMAX screen in space.  He’s won numerous awards and just a few days ago added a 3D Creative Arts award from the International 3D Society for his work on “Hubble 3D.”

 

FOR MAKING TEEN IDOLS LOOK GOOD FROM ALL SIDES: REED SMOOT

We know him as the man who lensed “Grand Canyon” and “Mysteries of Egypt.”  Younger folk know him as the man who lensed “Wild Ocean”….and Miley Cyrus….and the Jonas Brothers…..and Justin Bieber.  Yes, Justin Bieber.  Bieber’s new film, “Never Say Never,” profits from one of the greatest DP’s working in large format or 3D, Reed Smoot, a man who’s work can be subdued and serene, such as with “Cirque du Soleil: Journey of Man,” or hectic and filled with action, as in “Ultimate X.”

 

 

FOR BEING THE ANIMAL ALWAYS SHOWING UP: BEARS

First, we were introduced to Lotso, the malicious old teddy bear in Toy Story 3, then in December, Yogi and Boo-Boo jumped the bandwagon into the third dimension.  As if that wasn’t enough, IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond told Fox Business Channel from the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland that he loves the IMAX bear movie, which must have made Chris Palmer, the film’s producer,   stand on his hands for joy.  Never mind that Chris has been spending the better part of a year educating the public that the bears in “Bears” were either captive and trained or portrayed by Muppets.

 

FOR ACRUING MORE FREQUENT FLYER MILES THAN JOHN MADDEN: TAMMY SELDON AND KELLY GERMAIN

From running conferences in Tennessee, LA and China to site visits in Texas and Detroit, with a game show in Sacramento thrown in for good measure, the Executive and Communications Directors of the Giant Screen Cinema Association showed a tenacity rivaling any Amazing Race team as they continued to guide the GSCA into new markets and technologies.

FOR BEING THE CINEMATOGRAPHER WHO CAN CAUSE IMAX PURISTS TO CRY IN JOY LIKE JAPANESE SCHOOLGIRLS: WALLY PFISTER

What’s exciting about Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan’s DP, is that he understands filming for the IMAX screen to such a point that I’m certain he’s read IMAX’s old  filmmaker’s manual back and forth.  When Pfister talks about filming as much of “The Dark Knight Rises” with IMAX cameras, we know he’s not talking about just color and contrast.  When he talks about the trouble involved in setting up an IMAX shot, it’s not just because of the loud sound of the camera or the limited amount of film.  It’s because he’s preparing his shots for the biggest screens in the world and he’s composing them using rules set in place by hundreds of giant screen filmmakers before him.  Don’t believe me? Watch “The Dark Knight” on blu-ray or disc 2 of the special edition DVD.  The scenes filmed in IMAX are the most comfortable scenes to ever appear in a 1570 Hollywood action flick, followed closely by his 570 shot scenes in “Inception.”

 

FOR BEING THE BEST REINVENTION OF A BURNED DOWN CLASSIC ATTRACTION: KING KONG 360 3D

When fire destroyed the New York backlot sets at Universal Studios, King Kong, once the world’s largest animatronic figure, became its best known victim.  To the rescue came filmmaker Peter Jackson, Universal Creative, and WETA Digital.  Instead of resurrecting a robot, they would take a new approach – the world’s largest 3D experience.  “King Kong 360 3D” is the recent recipient of a Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Special Venue Project.

FOR PENALIZING THOSE WHO DRINK TOO MUCH BUTTERBEER: HARRY POTTER AND THE FORBIDDEN JOURNEY

The greatest experience for muggles in years opened in 2010 at Universal Studios Islands of Adventure – The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  In the rear of the land lie the next generation of simulator/dark ride hybrid, where guests would sit atop flying benches suspended from robotic arms attached to a track, flying them between filmed vignettes and animatronic and set pieces.  It was a wonderful time for all – except the largest of Harry’s fans as the seats tended be a bit smug.  Later, larger seats were added, but that didn’t stop theme park fan Banks Lee from starting a blog chronicling his attempts to lose weight in order to fit on the ride.

FOR MODIFYING AN EXISTING SHOW TO CREATE A MEMORABLE NEW ENDING: WORLD OF COLOR “TRONCORE”

Disney was doing everything possible to promote the upcoming “TRON Legacy” in their theme parks, from monorails in Florida painted as light cycles to the electronica party at Disney California Adventure known as “ElecTRONica.”  But it was this encore to World of Color that caught us off guard.  Incorporating the Sun Wheel and California Screamin’ rides, it showed us just how easily and seamlessly modifications can be made to this Thea Award winning show.

FOR BEING THE WHAT THE HELL RIDE OF THE MOMENT: V12: ENTER THE ENGINE

Jack Rouse Associates took their expertise in museum and visitor center design one step further when they created a theme park in the middle of the Arabian desert.  Themed to Ferrari, the park features three thrill rides, including the world’s fastest launch coaster, and three dark rides. Two of these rides go on filmed adventures – one through the company’s racing history, the other on a 3D romp.  But it’s the third ride, a flume ride, that makes one say,”Huh?”

FOR CONTINUING TO BE THE MEDIA DIVA OF THE ASTRONAUT CORPS: BUZZ ALDRIN

It’s been well-known since the early days of the Apollo program that Buzz Aldrin was the one astronaut always craving the limelight.  A few years back, he appeared in person at the end of “Fly Me to the Moon.”  Last year, it was a stint as Tina Fey’s might-have-been father on “30rock.”  If reports are to be believed, we’ll see him again in 3D this year in Michael Bay’s “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” – Buzz Aldrin the actor reminiscing about what Buzz Aldrin, the fictional character, saw on Apollo 11.

 

FOR BEING THE ASTRONAUT ONE STEP AWAY FROM BEING IN AN IMAX FILM, BUT STILL THE ONE WE RESPECT THE MOST: MARK KELLY

He doesn’t appear on the credits of any IMAX space shuttle films, but he gives us a guided tour of STS-108 on the “Space Station” DVD.  He knows the importance of IMAX in spreading the message of space exploration, from speaking to schoolchildren before an IMAX film to being NASA’s representative on the red carpet at the Hollywood premiere of “Apollo 13: The IMAX Experience.” As he prepares for his final shuttle flight, The Kinotech Blog salutes Mark Kelly for exemplifying the best of what it means to be an astronaut and what it means to be an American.

FOR GOING AFTER BIGGER SCREENS WHILE YOUR COMPETITION IS GOING AFTER SMALLER ONES: REALD

I have forsaken my local IMAX.  Not the big, huge 1570 theater downtown, but the digital cineplex IMAX in my neighborhood – the one with the 35 x 55 screen.  Turns out the local Century theater has an auditorium, and I’m not talking about their lavish Cinemark 😄 auditorium here, with a screen just slightly smaller and a 3D image pretty much just as good as the IMAX – and the ticket costs half as much.  This theater uses REALD’s XL technology, where a beam splitter captures what would be lost light, resulting in a much brighter image than we’re used to in conventional 3D.  Last month, REAL D introduced a version of this system with a much larger aperture.  The REALD XLW is designed for giant screens and has made a huge  splash with giant screen exhibitors.

FOR BEING THE NEXT BIG PROJECTOR IN IMAX THEATERS: BARCO

In Europe, Barco has made inroads with digital 3D projection inside domed IMAX theaters.  Now, they’ve placed a Barco projector inside the IMAX theater at China’s National Film Museum.  But something even bigger happened last month at an IMAX theater  in Galveston, TX, as Barco introduced their 4K projector to a crowd of giant screen exhibitors.  The response was overwhelmingly positive and the Blog is already receiving reports of Barco demonstrations being set up at giant screen theaters throughout North America.

 

 

FOR MAKING US REMEMBER THE BULLDOGS: STEVE SCHKLAIR

Steve, we know it’s all about the football.  We remember those days when you showed us shaky footage of a football game at Fresno State shot digitally in 3D, but presented on IMAX film, before many of us knew that Cameron had any such ideas in his head.  We remember how you decided to make a concert film in 3D about U2 because you got tired of waiting for the NFL to agree to work with you on an IMAX 3D film, but we did enjoy the proof of concept trailer you shot at the Superbowl along the way.  And now you’re shooting football all the time in 3D.  And other sports.  And concerts.  And other events.  Your company, 3ality Digital, is the defacto force in live broadcast for 3D cinemas and televisions.  And my Cannuck friends who caught your 3D broadcast of “Hockey Night in Canada” a few weeks ago thought it was oot of this world.

 

 

FOR EXPLAINING TO US HOW THE DIGITAL IMAX THING ACTUALLY WORKS: EDWARD CARTER

Writing on examiner.com about a new cineplex IMAX theater in Allentown, PA: “ The agreement with IMAX, which is based in Canada, basically allows larger corporate movie theaters, to retrofit an existing theatre to give an IMAX like experience and use the IMAX logo, while not having to spend the money and time that it would take to construct a new building to house a 3-story movie screen.”

FOR CAUSING ONE DIRECTOR TO CLAIM YOU’VE PISSED OFF ANOTHER DIRECTOR BY CONVERTING HIS FILM TO 3D: 20TH CENTURY FOX

Director Joe Dante (“Gremlins”) speaking to Ireland’s Herald: “A lot of directors don’t necessarily want to add 3D, it’s done without their consent. My friend Michael Apted just did a Narnia picture, and he was very upset that they insisted that his finished film be turned into 3D, because he had no intention when he was making it of doing it. He said, ‘if I was gonna’ do a 3D movie, I would have done it differently’. And the fact is that, when you make a 3D film — if you’re doing it correctly — you shoot it for 3D. To just take a film that was created to be in 2D, and send it to India and have it come back in this dark, fuzzy, View-Master slide kind of 3D, is a disservice to the movies and it’s frankly picking the pockets of the audience.” Apted has denied his dissatisfaction and has mentioned that Dante “spoke out of turn.”

FOR WASTING TIME ON A 3D CONVERSION, SETTING BACK THE FILM’S LAUNCH DATE YET AGAIN: SONY PICTURES

Delayed six times, “The Green Hornet” finally made it to screens in January with a half-assed conversion to 3D.  Surprising since Sony Pictures Imageworks, the vfx arm of the studio, won huge accolades for their conversions of Disney’s “G-Force” and “Alice in Wonderland,” both of which were lensed with conversion in mind.  The only reason I can think of for this film to have been converted at all would be to sell 3D televisions and blu-ray players, as the movie’s  stars were the opening act of SONY’s 3D-centric CES press event only a week before the film’s theatrical release.

FOR NOT LEARNING FROM YOUR MISTAKES: WARNER BROTHERS

After a disastrous 3D conversion of “Clash of the Titans,” Warner Brothers decided to rush things again.  This time, IMAX won the deal to convert “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 1” into 3D back in May, but they did not receive their first footage until August.  Instead of presenting a partial 3D film, as with other Harry Potter films, Warner opted to cancel the 3D conversion of Part 1 altogether and concentrate on Part 2, opening later this year. 

FOR MAKING A VERY COMFORTABLE 3D EXPERIENCE IN ALL FORMATS: JOSEPH KOSINSKI AND CLAUDIO MIRANDA

I have now seen TRON Legacy five times – twice in 1570, once in IMAX digital (with an additional screening of TRON Night’s 23 minutes), once in a Cinemark XD, and a fifth time in a conventional digital theater using REALD XL.  The film proved enjoyable in all formats.  It does not matter whether this was an overwhelming immersive experience on a giant screen or a tight, intimate joyride on something smaller, Kosinski and Miranda (who comes from David Fincher’s stable) are masters at understanding the architecture of 3D space (with Hugh Murray’s assistance on the IMAX version) and for that we are grateful.

 

FOR BEING THE LEAST UNDERSTOOD FILM OF THE YEAR: SANCTUM

It’s distributed on the same label as The Fighter.  It’s produced by James Cameron.  And it features spectacular 3D, yet critics have dismissed it as unrealistic with annoying dialogue.  Others would disagree.  As my colleague Hans Kummer, an underwater filmmaker, is quick to point out, although the characters may be a bit stereotypical, the actions and the dialogue are extremely accurate to what would take place in such a situation.  He labels the film “a documentary with fictional characters.”

And yes, Virginia, even though they don’t in MacGillivray Freeman films, people really do die in underwater caves.

 

FOR BEING THE ONE COMPANY WHO’S DONE WHAT NOBODY IN THE INDUSTRY SAYS CAN BE DONE: 3DFUSION

The word around the Stereoscopic Displays and Applications conference last month was that autostereoscopic televisions and monitors (i.e. glasses free) are years off.  While at the conference, I did look at one interesting solution from Germany, presented by Ulrich Leiner and Marius Braun, which utilized motion capture cameras to follow head movement and adjust the lenticular screen.  But if reports coming back to the Blog are true, while CES attendees were trying on the latest passive and active glasses, 3DFusion was inviting selected delegates to a private suite to view a 42 inch autostereoscopic monitor that, using algorithms, eliminates distortion and the “sweet spot” issue.  If so, this product places the company three to four years ahead of the rest of the market.

FOR GIVING US A REASON TO FINALLY SEE OPERA: CARMEN 3D

There’s nothing new about opera on cinema screens.  Both the San Francisco and the Met have been doing it for years, although on competing digital cinema networks in the states.  Now REAL D has joined with the Royal Opera to take this artform into the next dimension.  Helming this endeavor is the team that brought 3D to the West End stage with “Starlight Express.”  Again joining director Julian Napier are two names anyone in the giant screen industry should be familiar with – producer Phil Streathers and cinematographer Sean McLeod Phillips.  Of course, some of us prefer our operas with “wabbits.”

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