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Space travel in your cinema seat … Hidden Universe 3D (Sydney: September 5; Melbourne: September 12, 2013) brings the sun, the moon, the most distant stars into your range of vision with clarity like never before, the film’s director, Russell Scott tells Andrew L. Urban.

For the first time in history, “the images we’ve collated [for Hidden Universe] are IMAX quality, with 10 times the resolution of your TV, including the images of the sun, which are so detailed,” says director Russell Scott with evident enthusiasm.

His enthusiasm is entirely justified: the huge, detailed image of the sun seen in Hidden Universe 3D has the power to change forever our perception of this giant life giving, living star. It isn’t a gold disc at all. It is a feverish quasimodo, scarred, belching, furiously red in parts, its pluming hot gases making it gnarled and beautiful all at once.

"Resolution is the key"

“Resolution is the key,” says Scott. The images of the sun were something of a discovery. “We had originally planned a very short scene showing the sun, but our producer Stephen Amezdroz suggested we look for a really good image. Eventually I discovered that the Solar Dynamics Observatory had just recently started sending back IMAX size images of the sun – every second!”

Scott was so amazed by the high resolution images he found of Mars, for example, he examined one single frame for a full hour. “You can see 30cm rocks, it’s so detailed.” And this is the secret of Hidden Universe 3D: it brings together some of the most remarkable images of our universe – and the universe beyond our universe – in the spectacular form of the IMAX screen. The world’s largest IMAX screen is in Sydney.

“I doubt there are many places in the world where this film could have been made,” says Scott. “It requires all the resources of running a supercomputer to astronomy simulation, such as the final scene …” This is the Gigglez simulation, the work of astronomer Dr Gregory Poole, which shows how huge is the universe; “it’s watching 13 billion years of evolution,” says Scott.

Many engineers and scientists were involved in the two year process. To get the best view of space, the telescopes featured in Hidden Universe—the VLT and ALMA telescopes—are positioned in an extreme environment, as high as almost 5,000 metres in Chile’s remote Atacama Desert. The austere, moon-like landscape provides ideal conditions to see deep into space because there is less atmosphere at altitude, the sky is almost always clear due to the extremely dry climate, and it is so remote there is no light pollution at all.

"inspiring new theories about how the universe was formed"

“We've made a film about what lies within the gaze of this new generation of telescopes—telescopes so powerful they can locate images in space equivalent to distinguishing the headlights of a car on the surface of the moon,” says producer Stephen Amezdroz, a longtime documentary filmmaker. “This new technology is allowing scientists to peer back even further into space, revealing secrets about the cosmos that until recently were completely hidden from view and inspiring new theories about how the universe was formed.”

And it’s not just the science, says Scott, “but the unique language of IMAX – it’s not like any other cinematic language, and it’s very rewarding, very beautiful.”

Published September 5, 2013

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Russell Scott


The cosmic glow of the Carina Nebula, which contains two of the most massive and luminous stars in our Milky Way galaxy, as featured in Hidden Universe.

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