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