Shooting the Werks at Expo '92

By Heller, Phil | American Cinematographer, August 1992 | Go to article overview

Shooting the Werks at Expo '92


Heller, Phil, American Cinematographer


Thirteen-year-old Carlos Uribe Prado is inviting people to come and watch the home movie he shot about his family's vacation in their Basque homeland.

Millions of people are taking him up on the offer. What they are experiencing is an unforgettable journey that literally surrounds them with the sights and sounds of the Spanish province - all from the youngster's perspective. The film, Mi Pais Vasco (My Basque Country), is being shown at the Basque Pavilion at Expo '92 in Spain.

Carlos' comments at the start of the film about the "new, special camera" he used to record the family vacation indicate that this is anything but your typical home movie. Produced by BRC Imagination Arts of Burbank, California, the award-winning nine-minute film whisks audiences along on a whirlwind family vacation, stopping along the way to give them a sense of the history, culture and beauty of the region. That sense is heightened as the audience is surrounded by 70mm images projected onto a seamless 360-degree, 47-foot diameter theater screen.

Prado's film is just one of several large-format features being shown at Expo '92, the world show case which opened April 20 on La Cartuja Island in Seville, Spain. More than 100 nations from all five continents are represented at the exposition, which is expected to attract 18 million visitors by the time it closes on October 12.

Host country Spain, Venezuela and the Basque region are among the growing number of savvy government and corporate exhibitors who, in promoting the Expo '92 theme of 'The Age of Discoveries," have themselves discovered that the large-format theater experience is the best way to effectively present their big and colorful stories.

"The large-format theater experience represents the most powerful medium of communicating, educating and entertaining people of all ages and all walks of life," says Don Iwerks, chairman and chief of technology for Iwerks Entertainment in Burbank.

Iwerks Entertainment provided three unique large-format theater-going experiences for the Spanish, Venezuelan and Basque pavilions. The company, founded in 1985, is a leading developer of specialvenue theaters worldwide.

Iwerks was no stranger to the large-format field when he and partner Stan Kinsey formed the company. Iwerks had spent 35 years with Walt Disney Productions, serving as manager of technical engineering and manufacturing. In that position he was responsible for designing and manufacturing hundreds of fully automated projection systems for Disney theme parks. Kinsey had been vice president of finance and operations for Disney Studios.

Today, Iwerks is using his expertise to design and manufacture cameras and projection systems to further advance the large-format experience. The company also is developing a network of indoor cinemabased entertainment centers dubbed "Cinetropolis." Each movie park would feature a themed, music-filled environment combining three different motion picture experiences, restaurants, a dance club and specialty retail shops.

At Expo '92, visitors are presented with a variety of those motion picture experiences. They include the Imagine 360 theater at the Basque Pavilion (a single projector, seamless 360-degree experience), a giantscreen (50 feet high by 65 feet wide) Iwerks 870 theater at the Venezuelan Pavilion and an Iwerks Turbo Tour Theater at the Spanish National Pavilion.

At the Spanish National Pavilion, audiences not only can see and hear the rich history and culture of that country, but can even feel the experience as they sit in seats which move in synchronization to the 70mm film Vientos de España (Winds of Spain). The film is being projected onto the largest (24-meter diameter) and highest capacity (160 seats) dome-screened simulation theater in the world.

What went into the making of the films was as unique as the venues in which they are being shown. Working in large format also presented some challenges to filmmakers Soames Summerhays of Summerhays Films, Inc. …

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