Lights! Cameras! Action! IMAX film crew comes to Northeastern

A student walks down the spiral staircase in ISEC. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Northeastern’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex is synonymous with innovation: Groundbreaking research in the Internet of Things, online privacy, and black-box algorithms happen within its convex walls every day.

On Tuesday, ISEC will be home to another technological wunderkind: IMAX cinematography.

The large-format cameras have been to the top of Mount Everest, the bottom of the ocean, and even to outer space. Now, they’re coming to Northeastern to document a slice of the university as part of a larger project that will run in Boston’s Museum of Science for the next 15 years. The film will play at the museum for all new visitors, and will feature other iconic pieces of the city’s skyline.

Want to be part of the action? The university is seeking students to join the shoot, which takes place on Tuesday, April 19, at 1:30 p.m. in ISEC. The shoot is expected to take about an hour or less; free Northeastern swag will be included.

Northeastern Associate Professor David Tames

“It’s a film about the resilience of the region—about what it is that makes New England tick,” says Daniel Ferguson, the film’s director. “What’s in the water? Literally and metaphorically.”

The movie, which has a working title of “New England and the Sea of Stories,” will weave together several storylines from viewpoints throughout the region’s history. One big theme ties together the robust ecosystem in the Gulf of Maine and the ecosystem of the schools throughout New England.

“The analogy here is that each school is like the phytoplankton of the innovation ecosystem,” Ferguson says. Just as phytoplankton are key parts of freshwater ecosystems, the region’s academic institutions are a crucial part of the lifeblood of New England.

When he was scouting locations for the shoot, Ferguson was struck by the rich diversity and innovative campus design at Northeastern, he says.

“When you look at the diversity of the student body at Northeastern, that’s the new face of New England,” he says. “If you just sit in the lobby of the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex, you’ll see faces from all over the world. That’s a really special thing.”

The crew will be filming with a high-resolution digital camera that’s equipped with special wide-angle lenses to optimize visuals for the OMNIMAX Dome—the five-story domed screen in the museum’s Mugar Omni Theater.

The super wide, curved screen gives viewers a sense of immersion into the films shown on it, an experience that’s considered the “gold standard” of filmmaking, says David Tamés, associate teaching professor at Northeastern and a documentary filmmaker.

“IMAX really pushed the medium further in terms of immersion by using multitrack sound and these huge screens that enable audiences to see the images up to their peripheral vision,” he says. “You can really look around in this world, physically move your head and see new parts of the film on screen.”

If IMAX changed the game once, virtual reality is poised to change it again, Tamés says.

“Soon it could be the case that, rather than waiting in line and going into an IMAX theater, you can go into a VR space, don your VR headset, put on data gloves, and walk around in the space,” he says.

And just as it is now, in this not-too-distant virtual-reality future, Northeastern will be ready for its close-up.

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