Derby and District Astronomical Society

Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon in 3-D
22nd October 2005

A group of us visited the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television in Bradford on the 22nd October 2005 to see the IMAX film Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon in 3-D. IMAX films are always an impressive experience, but the addition of 3-D makes them truly superb. Some of us were expecting the red and green method of 3-D but this was not so. The film employed 2 IMAX projectors sending differently polarised images to the screen. A pair of large polarised glasses was then worn to separate these components and send a different one to each eye. In this way a 3-D stereoscopic effect of great authenticity and without any false colour was obtained. The film was presented by Tom Hanks of Apollo 13 movie fame. Tom also produced and presented the excellent HBO series From The Earth To The Moon and is something of a space fanatic. Magnificent Desolation is a natural follow on from those creations.

Superlatives cannot do this IMAX re-creation of the Apollo missions justice. One is given a real sense of the scale and grandeur of the lunar landscape. Particularly remarkable was the rendition of Hadley Rille, target of the Apollo 15 landing. What at first could be just a small depression in the ground is shown to be an enormous canyon when the camera pans back to show the astronauts standing as specks on the rim. This illustrates the very real problem the Apollo astronauts had in judging scale and distance on the Moon. There is no atmospheric haze, no vegetation, no buildings or telegraph poles to give a sense of how far away or how large a feature in the landscape is. I think that all of us who saw the film were somewhat awestruck. This is to ordinary cinema what cinema is to TV.

As well as the film we also had a good look around the museum itself. There was a viewing gallery where one could look into the IMAX projection room and see a film actually being projected. Particularly delightful was the chance to see the 10th anniversary programme of The Sky At Night from 1967. This was in one of a set of TV booths where one could order and view classic programmes from the history of British television. There is also a very fine collection of photographic cameras at the museum, ranging from the 19th century up to the present day, as well as exhibits detailing the history of television.

Mike Lancaster

DDAS members outside the National Museum of Film, Photography and Television in Bradford
DDAS members outside the National Museum of Film, Photography & Television, Bradford.  Photo Credit: A R Southwell