Get Ready for A Beautiful Planet, a Jaw-Dropping IMAX Movie From Space
For her new IMAX documentary about planet Earth, director Toni Myers knew she wanted footage from the International Space Station. But she couldn’t send up a crate of old-school IMAX equipment—transport ships have more important cargo to carry. So astronauts shot A Beautiful Planet, which comes out in April, entirely with digital cameras. They’re smaller and easier to use than their analog predecessors, and Myers didn’t have to wait around for the footage—it downloaded straight to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Cinematographer James Neihouse trained the astronauts to frame, light, and shoot footage from aboard the ISS.
The crew—which included social media sensations Scott Kelly and Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti—set up Canon DSLRs around the station, shooting through windows to capture rare views of earthly phenomena, like the northern lights. The astronauts even replaced the interior panel of one window to get a smudge- and scratch-free shot, which “pretty much took an act of Congress,” Neihouse says.
Over the course of filming, the cameras circled Earth more than 7,000 times, eventually traveling some 189 million miles. But the cameras are unlikely to make the 250-mile trip back to the surface. It’s cheaper to let them burn up on reentry with the rest of the station’s trash.