In 1989, the acclaimed PBS science series, NOVA, proved it could translate its unique success on television to the truly big screen of IMAX®/IMAXDome with To The Limit, lauded by The Hollywood Reporter as a "breathtaking educational experience...impressive, edifying, and uplifting all at once."
To The Limit turned the expansive IMAX medium on its head by focusing on the microworld inside the human body, a difficult problem for IMAX's giant screen, 15 perforation/70 millimeter format, but one that NOVA overcame with its propensity for going where no documentary filmmaker has ever gone before.
In its second IMAX film, Stormchasers, NOVA continues this tradition by taking the unwieldy large format equipment where it was never meant to go: on frantic forays into big storms, where meteorologists seek to get in, get data and get out -- and there is no time to set up a shot or ask for a second take.
"You can't schedule a storm," says Paula Apsell, NOVA's executive producer. "Being able to plan for filming a hurricane is almost as difficult as predicting one. Nonetheless, Stormchasers shows that NOVA can definitely tackle the filming, and forecasters are getting increasingly better at the predicting."
As with To The Limit, Stormchasers is a collaboration of NOVA/WGBH Boston; Museum Film Network, a consortium of 14 science museums around the world; and MacGillivray Freeman Films, a leading large format production company with 17 successful IMAX films to its credit. This extraordinary partnership began a decade ago, when a group of science museums responded to the need for science films for their IMAX theaters by deciding to produce their own. The museums' commitment and NOVA's know-how proved to be a natural collaboration, as evidenced by the team's debut, To The Limit, and their second film, Stormchasers.
"Stormchasing seemed like a natural subject for the large screen -- two previous NOVA films for television on the subject, Tornado! and Hurricane!, were immensely popular, and the medium is perfect for the grand scale of the weather phenomena we wanted to film," states Susanne Simpson, senior producer for NOVA on Stormchasers. "But to capture the fast action of meteorologists on the move in this large format medium was a real challenge for us."
Despite its colossal scale, Stormchasers manages to be an intimate "you-are-there" documentary about the work that meteorologists do. We are with them in the cockpit of a P-3 weather plane as they penetrate the eye of a hurricane; with them in the tense, decisive moments on the road as they focus their radar on an approaching tornado, traveling to the heart of severe storms to learn what makes weather systems tick. When viewers witness the bumpy ride into the sudden and spectacular calm of a hurricane's eye, or the commando-like raid to the very brink of a killer tornado, they will experience one of the elemental joys of doing science: that of confronting nature head-on to divine its awesome secrets.
And, in the process, NOVA just may achieve another of its successes by inspiring young people, and even their elders, to aim at careers in science.
The latest for NOVA on the big screen: Special Effects, a film about motion picture special effects and the perceptual sleight-of-hand that makes them possible, which premiered in Summer 1996. NOVA is also currently in development on Wings!, a film about aerobatics and air shows, Pyramids of Egypt, a co-production with National Geographic and Destination Cinema, The Secret Life of Cats and Dogs, and Italy: Restoring the Past.
The executive producers of Stormchasers are Paula Apsell, who has served as executive producer of the NOVA series and NOVA Large Format Films (the large format film unit of NOVA) and director of WGBH's Science Unit since 1984; and Dr. Jeffrey Kirsch, executive producer for Museum Film Network.
Susanne Simpson is the senior producer of Stormchasers, and is also the executive producer of NOVA L.F.F., the large format film division of NOVA.
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