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Tuesday, 17 June 2014 17:02

IMAX Debuts New 3D Digital Camera

Written by  Gordon Meyer
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Many movie buffs and filmmakers give IMAX credit for helping to spark the current cycle in 3D motion picture production and exhibition, thanks to the success of the specialized 3D IMAX films produced in the 1990’s. 

One of the big advantages of shooting in IMAX, whether in its original 65mm film process or the newer generation of digital IMAX cameras is that the image captured is exceptionally large, yielding extremely high resolution visuals. 

Now, IMAX engineers have taken that concept to the next level with their recently announced 3D digital camera using dual 65mm 4K sensors and a 1.9:1 aspect ratio. Moviegoers will get their first look at the camera’s capabilities this summer with the release of Transformers: Age of Extinction. Director Michael Bay and cinematographer Amir Mokri shot several sequences of the summer tent pole release using the new camera.  “The goal of the digital camera was to build something that was smaller, more compact and lightweight,” said Mike Hendriks, Director of IMAX’s Camera Department in a promotional video. 

SM IMAX Digital 3D Production Camera Hands“What’s unique about our 3D digital camera is that we use a fully integrated camera system where the lenses are interchangeable without using a beam splitter rig, which makes out camera very compact.  Our lenses literally come off as a stereo pair,” says Hendriks, who continues to explain that, in a traditional 3D rig where two separate cameras are linked and a beam splitter used to capture the right and left eye images, the lenses would have to be re-aligned every time a lens change was made. But that step is no longer necessary using the dual lens/single camera system.  

Its relatively compact size and weight gives filmmakers the mobility to shoot footage in native 3D that had previously only been possible using 2D cameras and post-production conversion. “We were able to do some really crazy action scenes that we would never be able to do with a larger camera.  So it was a really big advantage to have a smaller camera on things like chase vehicles and aerial mounts.”

Since IMAX designed this camera with nature documentaries in mind, they took into account that sometimes things happen on the spur of the moment before giving a camera operator enough time to start shooting.  The IMAX Digital 3D camera has a special record mode where it’s continuously running.  When this feature is enabled, by the time the operator hits the Go button, the camera has already captured a minute or more of footage, dramatically reducing the risk of missing critical footage. 

While IMAX Corporation acknowledges that their 15perf / 65mm film cameras continue to be the industry gold standard in terms of resolution and it expects they will to continue to be for quite some time, they designed the new camera to complement their film camera systems. According to a statement released on the IMAX website, “The IMAX® 3D Digital Camera delivers stunning image quality and is less than half the weight of other 3D digital camera systems on the market. The IMAX 3D Digital Camera will provide filmmakers such as Michael Bay with versatility that only 2D digital cameras have been able to deliver in the past. In Transformers: Age of Extinction, the production team was able to capture chase scenes and helicopter shots in high resolution 3D in a way that was previously impossible.”


Picture above: Director/Executive Producer Michael Bay (far right) on the China set of Transformers: Age of Extinction, from Paramount Pictures.
Photo credit: Andrew Cooper.


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