Last year we had an amazing opportunity of becoming a part of an amazing IMAX project, XL Outer Worlds. It all started last spring when producer Chris Kroitor called and asked if we would be available to help him put together a 3D camera system and help operate it for a small shoot in Indonesia. Tribe of Pan were thinking about visiting there since a while, as we were developing a different project about Orangutans, and decided to take Chris up on his project and also spend extra time afterwards and do some research. Last May we were on our way there. Initially we split, Joanne went on to meet local conservation NGOs around Java, and Tom went with the filming crew in Jakarta.
Indonesia is a very large country, with 260 million people spread over more than 20,000 islands. In the early 1970’s wife of then leader President Suharto, who most western observers considered at the time to be a brutal dictator, proposed creating a large amusement park show casing the many cultures, ethnicities and landscapes of Indonesia so to promote national unity. Taman Mini Indonesia Indah, is a huge 250 acre property featuring reproductions of different Indonesian architectures, recreational centers, zoos, museums and monuments and is a huge tourist draw for many Indonesian school children.
Our task there was to film around the property in IMAX 3D as a part of of Oliver Husain’s art film Garden of the the Legend of the Golden Snail, one of 5 short art films commissioned for the larger XL Outer Worlds IMAX film project. There is a local folk story about a beautiful princess and a golden snail, which in the 1980s the local government wanted to leverage to promote eating of actual golden snails as an alternative source of protein, as they are typically considered pests. At the heart of Taman Mini Indonesia Indah they built the worlds largest IMAX cinema in a building shaped as a massive Golden Snail. The XL Outer Worlds project was intended to premiere inside of the Ontario Cinesphere, the first permanent IMAX theatre in the world, also built in the heart of a large amusement park, Ontario Place, constructed in this case, to promote provincial unity around the same time as Taman Mini.
Our schedule was tight and resources limited, so working together Chris, Tom and prolific IMAX cameraman Dylan Reade along with a crew of local Artists dragged around a massive, heavy and unruly 3D beamsplitter camera rig in heat and humidity. We filmed shooting out of the side of moving gondolas, on the nose of moving Trams, on dolly tracks along the road or carrying everything up flights of stairs to capture scenes from roof tops. It was a short but exhausting shoot, and we were able to capture some really incredible footage with limited time and crew. Joanne traveled from her meetings to help us on the last several days with processing footage and giving a hand as we captured our last days of footage.
Many months later Chris reached out to us again, this time asking if Tom could help with another shoot on his project, this time not in 3D, but instead filming with IMAX’s customized Alexa 65 cameras. It didn’t sound particular challenging until Chris said that this Artist, Kelly Richardson, wanted to shoot multi camera panorama’s of super massive old growth trees for her part of the film, Embers of the Giants. The old growth forests on Vancouver Island are rapidly being lost to logging and these massive 26+ storey tall trees are being cut down in the thousands, and this shoot required carrying two massive Alexa 65 cameras on loan from IMAX by hand into the deep forest. Walking over 30 minutes on forest floor so soft from layers of dead foliage carrying more than just a single item would cause it to give way under your weight. We had a lot of great help from locals in Port Renfrew and with students and faculty from the University of Victoria where trains of us would carry our gear in at 3am before sunrise so we could catch the early dawn fog. There is something quite primordial about seeing these super massive trees up close.
On the next shoot, Chris asked for a bit of help setting up a very unique 3 axis camera head. This one designed with a large offset arm so the camera could point directly downwards without seeing it’s own base, but still freely rotate on all axis. This was so the famous Canadian Artist Michael Snow could produce a follow up to his landmark film La Région Centrale (1971), this time featuring the Toronto City skyline and filmed in digital IMAX. Tom helped configure the camera system and redesign the offset arm to allow the greatest flexibility of movement, as well as train the shooting crew on how to set it up.
Finally for the last segment, Tom again joined Chris to work with Artist Lisa Jackson on filming high speed photography of Lichen, using extreme macro lenses and a large Beamsplitter rig, Chris designed a clever use of a robotic slider and pan head so the samples themselves could move freely, while Cinematographer Bob Aschmann operated a separate robotic arm creating dynamic lighting effects. It was a very challenging shoot, with the beamsplitter mirror configuration & extremely narrow focus causing multitude of problems, all while filming at 120 frames per second.
The completed film premieres as the last part of the Images Festival tonight, and we here at Tribe of Pan are very excited to see how it will turn out!