Roughly 15 minutes of the film, including what co-director Joe Russo describes as one sequence “with some incredible scale to it,” will be shot with the cameras.
“We like being on the cutting edge of technology, and we like to enhance storytelling with technology in a way that pushes the narrative forward creatively,” said Russo. “When you’re working on a Marvel film, there’s a sense of showmanship that goes along with the movies, and no exhibitor exploits that better than Imax.”
Russo and his brother Anthony are well schooled in the Marvel universe, having previously directed “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” They are teaming once again on the sequel and are set to helm two upcoming “Avengers” sequels.
The new cameras have emerged through a co-development partnership between the wide screen company and Arri, the German motion picture supply giant. Imax currently has a 3D digital camera and 2D film camera, but is manufacturing the new technology in recognition of the fact that more and more films are shot digitally.
Moreover, many 3D productions, such as “Gravity,” are shot in 2D and converted to 3D in post-production. That’s what the Russos plan to do in the case of “Captain America: Civil War.”
Imax has been very selective about allowing filmmakers to use its cameras, limiting their use to a few A-list names such as Zack Snyder (“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice”), Brad Bird (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”), Christopher Nolan (“Interstellar”) and J.J. Abrams (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”).
“The demand for our cameras has never been stronger,” said Greg Foster, CEO of Imax Entertainment. “But we’ve had a supply/demand issue. In a very calculated way we held back the supply, and that’s increased demand in a way that we haven’t been able to satisfy.”
The company still plans to be choosey about the caliber of director it allows to use its technology, but it should increase the number of films shot in the format to roughly one a financial quarter.
Imax remains committed to its 2D film cameras, and views the new digital camera as a complement to its existing offerings, not a replacement. The 2D camera, however, is more compact and easier to use than its film equivalent.
“This is where there was a gap and now we’re filling this gap in our arsenal,” said Foster.
Some directors prefer the crispness and aesthetic qualities of film, but Joe Russo said he and his brother like to shoot on digital because they prefer to have lots of footage.
“It allows us to keep rolling and do multiple takes while keeping the energy up,” said Joe Russo. “Our motto is you can only build a film with what you bring into the editing room, and we like to bring as much as we can.”
He noted that he has a fondness for the look of film, but that might be changing as new generations have grown accustomed to digital projection.
“There’s an impressionistic quality to film that I’ll cherish forever, but today’s audience and younger audiences prefer the sharpness and crispness and reality they get from looking at digital,” said Joe Russo.
Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding, Imax and Arri will be entering a joint development effort to customize the Alexa 65 – Arri’s new large-format 65mm camera, lens and workflow system – for use in Imax productions. The Russos tested the Alexa while shooting “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and were impressed with its results.
The companies have begun research and development efforts, and the camera will be available once “Captain America: Civil War” commences shooting on April 27.
Partnering with Arri has some practical advantages. Digital technology evolves at such a rapid pace that the chips cameras use need to be updated every few months. The partnership means that Imax won’t have to keep overhauling its cameras.
Arri executives said they were excited to work with Imax because of its reputation for technical excellence.
“Their circuit of cinemas shows no compromise,” said Franz Kraus, group managing director of Arri. “It’s very attractive for high-end filmmakers. Imax theaters have the highest quality images and illumination.”
“Captain America: Civil War” stars Chris Evans as the patriotic Avenger, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Daniel Brühl as Baron Zemo. It hits theaters on May 6, 2016.