By JAMIE LOWE
The National Park Service, in honor of its 100th birthday this year, got the gift of a lifetime: its own IMAX 3-D film, which opened Feb. 12 around the country. With a blend of digital and mostly celluloid film, MacGillivray Freeman Films took on the challenge of representing the National Park Service in all its wonder and majesty. The movie, “National Parks Adventure,” which was produced in collaboration with U.S.-tourism marketing arm Brand USA, represents possibly one of the last IMAX movies made on actual film as the industry makes the full transition to digital films. Consider the finality like the last vinyl record ever made — of all time — but apply that to cinematography. Take that one step further and think of it like the Voyager Golden Record — a hard-copy archive of humanity on Earth and a way to show how we protected our natural wonders. Nostalgia is lovely, but there are other reasons you should make it a point to go see “National Parks Adventure” — other than the fact that it is narrated by Robert Redford.
» REASON NO. 1: The cast and crew nearly froze—and sweated buckets — to make the ice skiing and desert biking scenes.
Hot to cold only describes a portion of what the crew faced when filming nature in all its unpredictable glory. Brad Ohlund, the director of photography, said he faced geysers that “don’t care about your film schedule” and had to rent a sled to drive the IMAX camera around on in Michigan, swaddled in electric blankets with a generator to keep it warm enough to use. He and his crew even had to carry that mass of equipment that is an IMAX camera up and down, repeatedly, in the Utah desert. “In Bryce Canyon, we hiked that thing down to the bottom of the canyon,” said Ohlund. “Even with carts to roll it around on, it still took six people to stabilize it and get it down there. It was a herculean effort. I was shocked how many times we had to schlep that camera up and down deep canyons. I never heard anyone complain once even though they were breaking their backs. I think it showed how honored everyone felt to work on this monumental film.”
» REASON NO. 2: This movie is as big-screen as it gets.
According to Ohlund, the celluloid film the movie used is roughly 10 times the size of normal 35-milimeter film. The crew also used the best technology available to capture classic and off-the-beaten-path parks in novel frames. “First we wanted to get the Katmai bears,” said Ohlund. “Everyone’s seen it, but no one’s really seen it in slow-mo. We rented a 4K digital camera and the highest quality telephoto lens, a $100,000 lens, so we could capture the highest, crispest images for film.”
» REASON NO. 3: The film showcases that National Parks are for everyone.
Though filming permits in the National Parks are heavily guarded and are given on the understanding that filming will not interrupt a visitor’s experience in the park, Ohlund said the filming became part of the visitor experience in the park. “Park rangers are very friendly and willing to help you get the shots you need,” said Ohlund. “Because we were interacting with the public so much, we felt like we were becoming ambassadors of the national park. For that reason we always had park rangers with us to help interact with the public. They felt like part of the crew. People would ask ‘What are they doing?’ and the park ranger would answer ‘Oh, well, we’re shooting a film for the National Park Service!’”
For more travel inspiration, visit http://www.wheretraveler.com