Some Notes on Other Spherical Motion Picture Productions

By Casey, George | American Cinematographer, August 1973 | Go to article overview

Some Notes on Other Spherical Motion Picture Productions


Casey, George, American Cinematographer


"VOYAGE TO THE OUTER PLANETS" is but the most recent of a number of spherical motion pictures which Graphic Films has produced during the last dozen years.

To describe a number of them is to retrace a good bit of the history of this exceptional motion picture system-an exciting, encompassing, uniquely involving process which we feel will be a vital form of the motion picture of the future.

Our first introduction to "round movies" occurred in 1962 with our company's production of "CHEMICAL MAN" for Abbott Laboratories for exhibition in the Chicago Museum of Industry and at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair.

Although not designed for projection on a concave screen, "CHEMICAL MAIM" utilized a circular image with no up/down orientation. The film was projected on a circular floor and viewed by an audience sitting around the circumference of the theater.

Having thus vacationed from the conventions of the standard image, it seemed a less formidable leap to the production of "TO THE MOON & BEYOND", a full-dome, 70mm spherical production, also for the New York World's Fair.

This film (produced for Cinerama and sponsored at the fair by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines) was an exploration of outer space and inner space and of the immense range in the scale of matter in the universe.

An extraordinary visual experience, viewed on an 80-foot dome in a unique theater seating more than 600 persons, "TO THE MOON & BEYOND" became one of the most successful attractions of the fair.

The creative challenges in the making of the film were formidable. An entirely new film form had to be mastered. While the live action shooting could be accomplished with spherical lenses matching the projection lens and the curvature of the dome screen, the creation of the animation and special effects sequences which comprised the greater portion of the film was much more complicated. Entirely new modes of thinking and concepts of distortion, scale, and movement had to be developed, refined and reduced to working diagrams, charts and equipment. Original artwork was created in which the "fisheye" distortion was built into the art. Committed to film with standard lenses, this artwork yielded an undistorted image when projected through the spherical lens onto the dome screen.

This extensive investment into the research and development of a new motion picture form would, however, uniquely qualify our studio for later opportunities.

Some years after the fair, we acquired full rights to "TO THE MOON & BEYOND" and exhibited the production (retitled "COSMOS") at major state and national fairs throughout North America. We accomplished this with a huge, portable, air-supported dome theater with a seating capacity of more than 500 persons. …

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