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Jump into 3-D: want to be in the movies? No problem. Find out how filmmakers use 3-D technology to make you feel like you're part of the action.

Picture this: You're a famous filmmaker and you've been asked to make the perfect flick. What would it be? "An action film, definitely," says 13-year-old Marisol Jara. "But a really gross scary movie would be cool too. And definitely make it in 3-D!"

Jara has just stepped out of a theater showing a movie made with the latest cutting-edge technology: 3-D IMAX. With this technology, three-dimensional movie images jump off a screen that reaches eight stories high.

"The people and everything are so close that you feel like you're in the movie," says 14-year-old Alicia Nunquez.

To make 3-D IMAX movies, filmmakers duplicate human binocular vision. Binocular means using two eyes. Because your two eyes are set slightly apart, each one sees objects from a slightly different angle (see diagram, p. 10). Your brain receives these images at the same time and combines the two. The result: You see objects in three dimensions - length, width, and depth. That three-dimensional view helps you judge distances between objects.

So how does IMAX make you see 3-D on a flat movie screen? "IMAX filmmakers use a camera that has two lenses instead of one," says Mary Jane Dodge, a Sony IMAX expert. The camera's lenses, she continues, are spaced 72.4mm (2.85in.) apart - almost equal to the distance between your eyes. One lens films a right-eye view; the other lens films the left view - each on a separate roll of film. So the camera "simultaneously records the action that your left and right eyes would see in normal vision," Dodge says.


But filming in 3-D is a major challenge, says Dodge. first of all, the 3-D IMAX camera weighs 107kg (228lbs). So moving from location to location to shoot scenes takes a lot of muscle.

Shooting the action is also time-consuming. Filmmakers can only load the camera with enough film to shoot for about seven minutes, says Dodge. "That's because the film is 10 times the size normally used to make movies." Larger film allows IMAX to project the images onto an eight-story movie screen without distortion, she explains. Dodge says it takes up to 20 minutes to reload the camera.

Filming the most recent 3-D IMAX film - Across the Sea of Time, a story about a Russian boy's adventures in New York City-took plenty of footwork. The cast and crew filmed at many locations including the Coney Island amusement park and the top of the Empire State Building. They even took a ride on the city's subways.

After 40 days of shooting, the filmmakers cut and spliced to edit the film down to 51 minutes. Then the film footage made its way to the projection room at the Sony IMAX Theater.


Each reel contains 9.3km (15mi) of film - and boy are they heavy, says Bob Oeters, a Sony IMAX projectionist. "We have to use a forklift just to load the reels onto the film platters, the large round plates the film sits on as it feeds into the projector.

The two separate film reels (left and right) feed into two sides of a double-lens projector. On-screen, the images from the reels overlap. But if you look at the screen, the images are blurred. That's because you're looking at the left and right images with both eyes.

To help you see the images clearly - and in 3-D - the filmmakers had to find a way to make you see the "left" image with only your left eye, and the "right" image with your right eye. They accomplish this by having filmgoers wear electronic shutter goggles.

As the film starts to roll, the projector alternates left and right images, 48 times per second. An infrared (IR) signal inside the projector - similar to the signals emitted by your TV remote control - triggers the lenses on the goggles to flash left and right as well. The IR signals keep the goggles flashing in sync with the images on the screen. So, you see only one image at a time. But the flashing back and forth happens so fast, your brain is fooled into putting the left and right images together. Result: You see a 3-D picture - just as in normal vision.

And what a picture! As the oversize images jump off the screen, you feel like you're part of the action. People in the film seem to be in your face. "I tried to touch them," says 13-year-old Marisol Jara, "even though I felt kind of silly because I knew they weren't there."

So far, IMAX has produced six 3-D IMAX movies. But because IMAX theaters are expensive to build and equipment, like the film projectors, is costly, there are few screens to show these big pictures on, says Dodge. Besides New York, there are only two other theaters in the world - in Japan and France - that use this latest 3-D technology, she says. "But we plan to open theaters in San Francisco and Berlin in the future."


Until you can feast your eyes on a 3-D IMAX film, think about the type of 3-D movies you'd like to make. Adventure films? Action? Or maybe a movie that will make your hair stand on end?

In what other ways could you make a movie audience feel they're part of the action? Send us your best ideas (address on page 22) and we'll forward them to Sony. Who knows? Maybe your ideas for new movie-viewing experiences will be "coming soon to a theater near you."
COPYRIGHT 1995 Scholastic, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:part 2
Author:Jones, Lynda
Publication:Science World
Date:Nov 17, 1995
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