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Space Shuttle Atlantis Brings Back Final IMAX Film Images for First-Ever 3D Space Film

(July 25, 2001)
With the return of Space Shuttle Atlantis late last night, astronauts and filmmakers wrapped up filming and entered the last phase of post-production on SPACE STATION, the first-ever IMAX 3D space film. This was the Shuttle's last major mission for the specially-designed IMAX 3D space cameras and a wrap for the 25 astronauts and cosmonauts who were trained as filmmakers on lights, cameras and sound. SPACE STATION tells their story and, for the first time ever, takes audiences on an incredible cinematic journey of discovery into the Space Station through the magic of IMAX 3D technology. SPACE STATION, scheduled for release in spring 2002, is produced by IMAX Space Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of IMAX Corporation, and sponsored by Lockheed Martin Corporation, in co-operation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

IMAX cameras travelled from Kazakhstan to Houston, from Kennedy Space Center to 220 miles above Earth into zero gravity to document one of the most challenging engineering feats since landing a man on the Moon: the on-orbit construction of the International Space Station. Between December 1998 and July 2001, more than 69,000 feet, or 13 miles of 65mm film negative will have been flown into space and then brought back to Earth to produce this giant-screen adventure. At the speed of 17,500 mph, IMAX audiences will be able to join astronauts and cosmonauts from the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia and Europe, as they construct a truly international outpost in space.

Early in 1997, IMAX Corporation, in association with Lockheed Martin Corporation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), began a program to develop new IMAX 3D cameras to fly in space, which required a new concept for these cameras. This involved filming the left- and right-eye images, necessary for 3D, onto a single filmstrip, and then separating these images onto two strips of film for projection. The new IMAX 3D cameras, plus new photoflood lights and Digital Audio Tape recorders, required six months of flight tests, in order to qualify for space travel.

The IMAX3D Cargo Bay Camera was uniquely designed to mount in a pressurized container in the Cargo Bay of the Space Shuttle. Astronauts remotely control the camera through the use of a laptop computer connected to a video camera, which has allowed the filmmakers to frame their shots, select focus and exposures, and for the first time, choose from alternate camera lenses. The IMAX3D In-Cabin Camera (IMAX3D) was designed to permit the astronauts to film inside the Space Station.

SPACE STATION stars astronauts and cosmonauts, who collectively have spent thousands of hours in space. The IMAX cameras captured seven Space Shuttle crews and two resident station crews, as they transformed the International Space Station into a permanently inhabited scientific research station.

"With screens more than six stories high and 15,000 watts of surround- sound, The IMAX Experience has always been the most realistic of any film format. Even the astronauts agree that seeing this film in an IMAX theatre is the closest thing to being there," said IMAX Corporation co-CEOs Richard Gelfond and Bradley Wechsler. "Our newest IMAX 3D technology will literally launch viewers into another realm -- into zero gravity and into the International Space Station to watch history in the making."

"I've been lucky enough to view the Earth from space," said Astronaut Jim Voss, crew on Expedition Two to the Space Station. "I hope that now this film [SPACE STATION] is going to even further enhance that feeling of being there. It will make a person think they are in space with us."

The film's producer, Toni Myers, explained that during this last mission for the two onboard IMAX cameras, the astronauts and cosmonauts applied their newly-acquired filmmaking skills to document life aboard the Space Station. "They used both the interior and exterior IMAX 3D cameras simultaneously to capture the delivery of the station's airlock. Then, as the shuttle Atlantis departed from the station, the IMAX 3D Cargo Bay Camera captured stunning views of the entire International Space Station in 3D, with its golden solar arrays outstretched majestically against the backdrop of Earth."

For more than 15 years, Myers and her colleagues, Consulting Producer and IMAX Co-founder Graeme Ferguson, and Director of Photography James Neihouse, have been training astronauts to be cinematographers, directors, sound mixers and lighting technicians. Last month, NASA astronauts awarded James Neihouse with the coveted "Silver Snoopy" Award, for his "continuing superlative support to America's space program. Through IMAX films, the world has had a window into the exploration of space from both the technical and human side, giving NASA the most successful and awesome outreach of any venue."

More than 70 million people worldwide have been able to explore space through the IMAX-Lockheed Martin partnership. This successful team has jointly produced five technically challenging, yet highly entertaining and educational space films, including The Dream Is Alive in 1985, Blue Planet (1990), Destiny In Space (1994), and Mission To MIR (1997), letting moviegoers experience first-hand what it is like to travel, live and work in space.

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