Magazine article American Cinematographer

Innovative Devices Used on BEHOLD HAWAII

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Innovative Devices Used on BEHOLD HAWAII

Article excerpt

The many elaborate photographic scenes I had planned for Behold Hawaii necessitated our inventing or adapting many filmmaking devices for use in the IMAX large screen format. In this article, I have attempted to describe some of the more important innovations that contributed to the success of this complicated production.

Above all else, we focused on the development of devices that would further enhance the unique visual qualities of IMAX in terms of camera view, perspective, and movement.

First IMAX Zoom Lens, 2000mm Lens

In relation to camera view, we had the opportunity to use the first IMAX zoom lens as well as a iooomm lens. We had been interested in developing a zoom lens ever since our first IMAX production, To Fly, in 1976. The numerous static, but beautiful, Hawaiian locations made the use of a zoom lens that much more vital to Behold Hawaii.

My associate, Dennis Moore, with whom I co-produced Flyers, the IMAX sequel to To Fly, had spent years in the development of a zoom lens to fit the IMAX camera. Because of the high resolution of the IMAX image, the lens had to pass numerous tests measuring focus quality, frame coverage, and centering. Once a commercial lens was found that finally met the IMAX specifications, development of mounts, motoring equipment and other peripheral accessories successfully followed. When zooming from 75mm to 150mm, the lens is as sharp if not sharper than standard IMAX lenses, and it had several important applications in the film.

One special scene that I had envisioned for the movie was made possible by the iooomm lens. I wanted Keola to demonstrate his modern surfing techniques while using the old wooden surfboards of the 17th Century Hawaiians. With the iooomm lens, I was able to frame out the large crowd of contemporary surfers paddling around on their modern, colorful surfboards and swim trunks, and thus preserve the setting of ancient Hawaii.

However, the zooomm lens was not without its problems. Even with my past experience in surf cinematography, following focus on a surfer with a mirror lens is one of the most difficult operator problems I have ever encountered. In fact it is next to impossible. I wouldn't recommend the use of a mirror lens with any scene that requires detailed sharpness and a continual follow-focus. Nevertheless, the zooomm lens made the surfing scene possible, and later it was used to shoot some beautiful large screen closeups of the sun and cloud formations, as well as other pictorial, static scenes in the film.

Cable Dolly and Mini Crane

Two devices, a cable dolly and a mini crane, were important throughout the film in providing camera mobility that is so much a part of the IMAX visual effect. Since the stripped down IMAX camera weighs over 50 pounds, hand holding or Steadicam style operation is not possible. The cable dolly rig made possible a highly mobile and smooth camera movement following alongside or in front of running actors. This rig was especially effective when used over the jungle stream for a chase scene, where the camera seems to glide just inches above the smooth, undisturbed stream water while the actors splash upstream just behind it.

The cable rig was also used in a modified form for the log walk sequence, in which the audience is suddenly placed on the log from Keola, the principal actor's viewpoint, looking down past his feet to the roaring river rapids below.

The mini crane we designed with the help of Don Weegar and Calgar of San Luis Obispo. It provided 12 feet of vertical elevation and also worked well on dolly tracks. …

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