Sunday, March 16, 2008

Giant Screen Cinema Association European Expo

This past week I attended the GSCA European Expo of large format films at the London Science Museam. Ultimatly I think we watched 13 IMAX productions over 48 hours. Besides my eyes feeling like they were popping out of my head and being exsausted from the visual stimulus I have to admit I had a really good time.

My reactions to the 3D Stereo IMAX films was that it hasn't developed far enough to be a truly viable technology. I had 3 major difficulties with the 3D effects.

1. THE EDGE - as soon as any 3D effect breaks the border edge of the frame the 3D effect is instantly lost. This seems to be a problem that can only be remeded by production decision and teqnique which avoids this from happening and instead works within the frame. Sea Monsters 3D did this the best, particurally with a shot (which happened twice) where a massive sea creature ate a shark in a overhead shot. the sea creature came through the surface of the water straight out of the screen and then returned through the the 3d space to go back under the water. The Edge was never crossed and the effect was brilliant.

2. Interlacing or Phase issues - In the 3D isn't interlaced perfectly or the position of the audience member is just right, it apears to create a ghosting effect on the eyes, I realize that each person's eyes and spacing are different, but there needs to be some thought or corrective technology brought in on this issue as the audience grows very tired of seeing the image when it is almost painfully out of focus to do so.

3. 3D is Tiring. IMAX is already a massive ammount of visual information. I can honstly say that I couldn't see a good or necissary reason for any of the 3D films to be 3D. Even U23D would have been as amazing an experience without the 3D elements, which as far as I could tell came down to a percieved ZDepth and microphone stands/drum kit parts that seemed to come out of the screen. 3D was excelent for titles and text, but otherwise, I could see how it made any of the productions have higher production value.

My response to the IMAX format in General is that it is wonderful to have the size, but I only saw one production during the entire Expo which I felt really used the scope and scale of the screen to reall impart any value to the audience. This came in the form of a production telling of the Muslim pilgramage to Mecca. Filmed at the 2008 Hajj with an all Muslim IMAX crew the scale and brilliance of the images was breathtaking. This production currently under development was by far the best thing I saw all week, the timelapse was amazing and the feeling that came from the screen was compleatly immersive. This was as close to the Kaaba as a non-muslim will ever be, to feel the power and dignity of such a sacred experience.

Finally the week concluded with Shine the Light - Martin Scorsese's production of a Rolling Stones concert in NYC. This was far and away a better stroy then U23D although along the same vain. In general my response to both films was that unless you were a fan of these bands they were just to long and over produced. you can only watch sweaty rock legends on a 8 story screen for to long before your head starts to heart from the visual and auditory saturation. Shine A Light is better then U23D because of the closeness and backstage experience. Ultimatly unless you love these Bands, it is a long expensive ticket.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Afrika Afrika

On Feb. 21st I was treated to a performance of Afrika Afrika for my 29th Birthday at London's O2 Center (Millennium Dome). The experience was a fantastic exploration of New Circus which is particularly close to my heart. I must say that the Circus elements were brilliant and the performers some of the best in the world.

The Acrobats from Tanzania - Level 10 Sports Acrobatics with the best group configurations of Acro-Balance I have ever seen.

The Contortionists (one from Congo and one from South Africa) were brilliant and super bendy.

The Ball Juggler was also amazing - bounce juggling nine balls, which I have never seen before.

All in all the performers stole the show. The Tented Palaces were fantastically decorated and the design of the show was solid and entertaining. I was very impressed by their use of Dynamic Digital Projection Systems and Static Projection on the interior of the tent, but I must make the comment that their visuals were not strong. I was disappointed that with the level of technology in the space it was not used more effectively.

I was also disappointed in the music, which although African in nature seemed to be a re-hashing of African themes from the Lion King, Miriam Makeba and LadySmith Black Mambazo.

All in all a fantastic show though.. the performers and circus skills are top rated.