In a new era when Artificial Intelligence is becoming a part of our life and a laptop you have at home can create CGI that can give a decade-old Hollywood movie CGI a run for its money (of course you need skills), a director has some other ideas.
Christopher Nolan who (actually) blew up a Boeing 747 for Tenet, has spoken of the challenges of practically recreating the atomic bomb test for his new film, Oppenheimer.
The director’s forthcoming biopic of Robert Oppenheimer, one of the pioneers of nuclear weapons during the second world war, involves a scene recreating the first atomic detonation in New Mexico in July 1945, a month before the US dropped similar bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, hastening the end of the conflict.
“Recreating the Trinity test without computer graphics was a huge challenge to take on,” Nolan told Total Film.
“Andrew Jackson – my visual effects supervisor, I got him on board early on — was looking at how we could practically do a lot of the visual elements of the film, from representing quantum dynamics and quantum physics to the Trinity test itself … there were huge practical challenges.”
Interstellar, Dunkirk and Tenet cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema reunited once again with Nolan for ‘Oppenheimer’ and the two managed to get IMAX to create a new kind of film stock for them.
Nolan has long pioneered ambitious technical filmmaking while also mounting real-life stunts of momentous scale. He blew up a real Boeing 747 for 2020’s Tenet, flipped a truck for The Dark Knight, and shot on top of a melting glacier in Interstellar.
The director further shared, “We challenged the people at Kodak Photochem to make this work for us,” Nolan said. “And they stepped up. For the first time ever, we were able to shoot an IMAX film in black and white. And the results were thrilling and extraordinary.
IMAX (short for “Image Maximum”) is a proprietary system of high-resolution film cameras and film projectors. It is often used to film and display large format films in specialized IMAX theaters, which are designed to provide the highest quality image and sound to movie audiences.
IMAX cameras are known for their high resolution and image quality, as well as their large size and weight.
They use 15-perf 70mm film, which is approximately ten times larger than traditional 35mm film. This permits greater detail and a wider aspect ratio, resulting in a more immersive viewing experience.
IMAX cameras have been used to film a variety of movies, including documentaries, action films, and even some Hollywood blockbusters. They are often used to capture action sequences or landscapes, as the high resolution allows for close-up shots and wide panoramic views.
IMAX film cameras filming the Atomic Bomb scene on the set of Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer
“As soon as Hoyte (van Hoytema, Nolan’s cinematographer since ‘Interstellar’) and I saw the first tests come in, we just knew that this was a format we were immediately in love with.”
While the exact method Nolan used to recreate the real nuclear test is not fully clear, the visuals give some idea of how lighting and depth perception can lead to visual feats.
Oppenheimer stars Cillian Murphy alongside Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr, Florence Pugh, Rami Malek and Josh Hartnett. The film will be released in July 2023.