Science Center of Iowa Blog

At the Science Center of Iowa, our goal is to be a quality community resource for informal science learning where children, families, school groups and individuals come to explore science and technology. To continue the learning outside our walls, we give you the SCI blog! Our knowledgeable staff, along with special guests and local scientists, will give you a behind-the-scenes look at SCI activities and in-depth information about science events.

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Interstellar in 70mm IMAX

Interstellar in 70mm IMAX

By: Timothy Alguire, IMAX Projectionist

"If there’s any film that’s ever really, really demanded a must-see trip to the theater in IMAX, it’s Interstellar." - Matthew McConaughey

Christopher Nolan is a fan of IMAX and of film in general. So much, in fact, that he prefers film over digital when filming his movies!

He doesn’t do it out of nostalgia but because film still provides the best quality image. When asked about the IMAX format he says, "The sharpness and the depth of the image, projected onto those enormous screens, is simply the best quality image that has ever been invented."

With IMAX film having a resolution that is almost 10 times greater than any other format, 70mm IMAX film is best way to see the Interstellar as the director intended. For comparison's sake, a traditional theater’s digital projection system is a 2K or 4K system – that’s 2 to 4 times the clarity of most HD TVs. IMAX film has a resolution of up to 18K.

Interstellar features more than an hour of footage filmed in the native 15perf/70mm IMAX film format, which means that, during these scenes, the image clarity is unmatched by any other format. These select scenes during key dramatic moments will fill the entire IMAX screen... further enveloping the audience. 

The image produced by IMAX film, which offers up to 40% more picture than other formats, fills the screen from top to bottom with unmatched brightness and clarity. The IMAX sound system utilizes low-end frequencies, allowing viewers to feel the film as well as hear it. SCI is the only location in Iowa that will be presenting Interstellar in true IMAX fashion; on 15/70mm IMAX film!

If you’ve been to SCI’s Blank IMAX Dome Theater recently, you know our screen in big. So big in fact that SCI’s Blank IMAX Dome Theater’s screen is the LARGEST SCREEN in the state of Iowa! This enormous screen along with the theater’s laser-aligned digital sound system creates the world’s most immersive experience for Interstellar that can only be experienced in IMAX at SCI.

If you want to see Interstellar the way Christopher Nolan wants you to see it, do yourself a favor and experience it in 70mm IMAX film at SCI’s Blank IMAX Dome Theater!

Interstellar: The IMAX Experience in 70mm Film opens at SCI on November 5. Tickets and showtimes at

Category: IMAX


Frequently Asked Questions: Interstellar in IMAX

Frequently Asked Questions: Interstellar in IMAX

On November 5, a new film will be released in SCI's Blank IMAX Dome Theater... Interstellar!

In Christopher Nolan's latest film, a group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

The sci-fi film starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway is based on the theories of physicist Kip Thorne.

Interstellar will play at SCI in the Blank IMAX Dome Theater in IMAX 70mm film format. This format combines the brightest, clearest images at almost 10 times the resolution of standard theater projection formats with powerful, laser-aligned digital sound to create the world's most immersive movie experience.

Keep reading for answers to some frequently asked questions about Interstellar in IMAX, including:

  • Why should moviegoers see this film in IMAX?
  • What's unique about the IMAX camera?
  • What happens on screen during sequences shot with IMAX cameras?
  • Why should I see Interstellar in 15perf/70mm IMAX film instead of standard 35mm film?
  • Why does Christopher Nolan prefer film over digital?
  • Why is Interstellar being released two days early in IMAX 70mm film theaters domestically?

View showtimes and purchase advance tickets online at:



 Why should moviegoers see this film in IMAX?

Christopher Nolan designed Interstellar for IMAX and actually shot portions of the film with IMAX® cameras. Only in IMAX® theatres will these sequences expand vertically to fill the entire screen – providing moviegoers with even greater scope and breathtaking image quality for a truly immersive experience.

IMAX is the world’s most immersive cinematic experience. Everything from the movie itself to the theatre design, projection and sound has been customized and enhanced to make you feel like you are part of the movie.


What’s unique about the IMAX® camera?

The IMAX® 2D 15perf / 65mm film camera is the highest-resolution camera in the world.

When captured with the IMAX® camera, the image projected features almost 10x more resolution than conventional 35mm film – providing unparalleled scope and quality.

Exclusively in IMAX theatres, scenes shot with this camera will expand vertically to fill the entire IMAX screen with unprecedented crispness, clarity and color for a truly immersive experience.


What happens on screen during the sequences shot with IMAX cameras?  

The technical term for the proportional relationship between an image’s width and its height is called aspect ratio. Most films today are presented in an aspect ratio called CinemaScope (2.40:1). When a film is presented in CinemaScope, it is cropped and uses only part of the image the movie camera captures. This is the reason most ordinary screens are very wide but not particularly high – like looking at the world through a narrow slit.

IMAX provides filmmakers with the ability to use an expanded aspect ratio for the IMAX presentation of their film during production through filming with the extremely high-resolution IMAX® camera.

Exclusively in IMAX® theatres, sequences of Interstellar will be presented in an expanded IMAX aspect ratio and fill the entire IMAX screen – offering moviegoers more of the image than standard cinemas for a truly immersive experience.


Why should I see Interstellar in 15perf/70mm IMAX film instead of standard 35mm film?

The IMAX Experience featuring 15 perf/70 millimeter film projection combines the brightest, clearest images at almost 10 times the resolution of 35mm film, with powerful, laser-aligned digital sound and customized theatre geometry to create the world’s most immersive movie experience.


Why does Christopher Nolan prefer film over digital?

While each format has its fans among the ranks of leading directors, Christopher Nolan has been a longtime proponent of film – particularly the IMAX film format – as a storytelling medium. Since Interstellar was captured with IMAX film cameras, it is also Christopher Nolan’s preference that this film be projected and viewed in this format.

Filmmakers are among IMAX’s most important partners and advocates and we are committed to respecting and honoring their artistic vision.


Why is Interstellar being released two days early in IMAX 70mm film theatres domestically?

The decision to release Interstellar first in film theatres was made by the filmmaker and studio. It is Christopher Nolan’s preference that this film be projected in the format in which it was captured.


General IMAX Camera Facts:

  • IMAX® cameras are the highest-resolution cameras in the world.
  • IMAX 15 perf/65mm film provides almost 10x more resolution than 35mm film.
  • An IMAX frame has upwards of 18,000 pixels of horizontal resolution (compared to a home HDTV, which has 1,920 pixels).
  • IMAX® cameras are integral tools that enable visionary filmmakers to tell their amazing stories.
  • Many of today’s leading filmmakers use IMAX® 15 perf/65mm cameras for their feature films, including Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Brad Bird and Michael Bay.
  • Previous films that incorporated IMAX® cameras include: The Dark Knight, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, The Dark Knight Rises, Star Trek: Into Darkness and Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Category: IMAX


On the BIG Screen: Why see Oblivion in IMAX?

On the BIG Screen: Why see Oblivion in IMAX?

By: Justin Rule, SCI Chief IMAX Projectionist

Disclaimer: I’m not a film critic, so I won’t be giving a critical review of the film. I am, however, an avid movie watcher and, more specifically, a sci-fi fan!

Oh, I'm also in charge of the Science Center of Iowa’s Blank IMAX Dome Theater, and I was able to preview the film on our six-story IMAX dome this week! All of these things qualify me to let you know why IMAX is the best way to see Oblivion, Tom Cruise’s new action-packed sci-fi flick!

If you’ve heard anything about Oblivion, you’ve heard that - above all - it’s visually stunning. Writer/Director Joseph Kosinski (who's also from Marshalltown, Iowa) knew from the very beginning that he wanted his vision to be shown and look amazing in IMAX. 

Here are a few of the things that make this film perfectly suited for IMAX:

  • Sony's CineAlta F65 camera was used for filming. This digital camera captures images at 4K resolution (that’s 4,000 lines of horizontal resolution), which results in an image with twice the clarity of most digitally captured films.
  • To avoid using green screens, Kosinski utilized a 500 ft wide, 42 ft tall, 270 degree wrap-around screen that used 21 projectors to create a super-high-definition, 15K resolution video of clouds and background action. This means that the background images you see in the movie were filmed in real-time using a super-HD projection that looks stunning on-screen SCI’s six-story IMAX screen.
  • To utilize the larger IMAX screens to their full advantage, the IMAX version of Oblivion is presented with a larger aspect ratio. This means most of the letterboxing (black bars at the top and bottom of the image) have been removed. While most Hollywood films only use 60% of the IMAX screen due to the standard theater letterboxing, Oblivion is shown with minimal letterboxing, presenting an image that fill 80-85% of the entire screen! This is very, very rare, but quite a treat while watching Oblivion at SCI! Tom Cruise even said, "This film is made for IMAX!"
  • Lastly, the cinematography has been done perfectly for the large IMAX screen! When a film is shown in such a large format, steady camera movements, beautiful wide-angle scenes and screen-centered action are key! Oblivion does all of this and more.

For more behind-the-scenes action from Oblivion, check out this 3-minute video Oblivion: IMAX Behind the Frame

The Science Center of Iowa’s Blank IMAX Dome Theater is your place for this summer's most-anticipated sci-fi summer flicks, kicking off with Oblivion, then Star Trek Into Darkness on May 15 (2 days early in IMAX) and Man Of Steel starting June 14! It’s going to be an action-packed summer at SCI!

Oblivion runs through May 2. Get your tickets here!

Justin Rule is SCI's Chief IMAX Projectionist.

Category: IMAX


Don't just see a film... Experience the BIG picture!

Justin assembled The Dark Knight Rises from 49 individual film reels!

Justin assembled The Dark Knight Rises from 49 individual film reels!

By: Justin Rule, SCI Chief IMAX Projectionist

In case you haven't heard, Christopher Nolan, the director of the Dark Knight trilogy, loves large-format IMAX film.

This is why he's captured 72 minutes of footage of The Dark Knight Rises in the IMAX 15/70mm film format. What does that mean? “15/70” is film that has 15 sprockets or perforations per frames that are 70 mm wide versus traditional film projection that is only 4 sprockets or perforations per frames that are 35 mm wide – in other words, it’s a bigger, clearer film medium with 10 times the surface area as standard 35 mm film.

72 minutes of IMAX footage is almost half the entire movie and more than any other Dark Knight film! The IMAX format is obviously the way that the director wanted you to see this movie!

I could go into lots of details about the 15/70 film specifically, but the New York Times already did a great job in this article. Instead, let’s talk about what it takes to run one of the longest 15/70mm IMAX films to date.

First, here are some general The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR) IMAX film basics:

  • TDKR showed up at the theater in 49 small three-minute reels.
  • The 49 reels have to be spliced together, reel after reel, into one continuous piece of film weighing 700 lbs.
  • The film is wound onto a platter – a large flat metal disk – for playback and storage.

Take a look at some behind-the-scenes pictures of the film build here on SCI’s Facebook Page!

Building the largest-ever IMAX film

The IMAX film platter system that we use here at the Science Center of Iowa is designed to hold about 150 minutes of film. But TDKR is 165 minutes – 15 minutes longer than what our film platters were designed to carry. So to compensate, we had to make some modifications to our platters to fit the extra 15 minutes of film on!

First, we tightened the tension arms that tell film how tight to wrap-up back onto the platter; normally, they wrap at a medium tension, but for The Dark Knight Rises, we have these things maxed out. The film is wound as tight as it possibly can so that the wrap of film stays as small as it can. We need all the space on the platter we can get!

Second, IMAX designed a new film clamp system that holds the film from flying off the platter at full speed. These newly designed clamps hold the film at its outermost edge to allow the most film as much room as possible on the platter. It’s quite a sight to behold when all that film gets spinning up to speed!

Bigger really is better in IMAX

If you’re going to see The Dark Knight Rises, do yourself a favor and watch it as it was meant to be seen – in IMAX!

If you see it on a traditional theater’s smaller screen first, see it again at the Science Center of Iowa’s Blank IMAX Dome Theater. I personally have done this, and I can say that all the large-format IMAX shots, so nicely interlaced with standard letterboxed picture, take the experience to a whole new level that is well worth it! Enjoy!

Justin Rule is SCI's Chief IMAX Projectionist.

Category: IMAX