maze runner panoramic

A new panoramic process, the modern version of Cinerama, is on the immediate horizon. The ultra-wide screen projection process Cinerama had a brief heyday in the ’50s, when the 146° arc of the Cinerama screen was one of several challenges to television mounted by studios and theater owners. Now, giant-screen exhibition is limited to IMAX, a few dome projections, and special event setups such as the Warner Bros. domination of Hall H at Comic Con, where fully half the hall was wrapped in projection screens.

A company called Barco is now pushing a display tech it calls Escape, in which two additional screens are positioned on either side of a primary cinema screen to create a panoramic image. Now, the first Escape auditoriums are being finished, and The Maze Runner will be the first film to take advantage of them, starting September 19. 

Cinerama faced some significant challenges, such as the problem of shooting a panoramic image in the days before computer-synced digital cameras and projection. The screen had to be specifically built, to ensure that light wasn’t reflected in a way that washed out other parts of the image.

Digital image capture and projection helps solve some of those problems. Digital technology also allows films not shot in a panoramic process to be “extended” to take advantage of the tech.

Here’s a video featuring some footage of the company’s offering:

So, for The Maze Runner, as THR reports,

…the film was shot in a traditional way, before the decision to use Escape was made. The center screen will display the live-action film, and imagery on the side screens will be extensions of the scenes — i.e., a larger maze — created using visual effects.

While the projection issues of Cinerama may be eased with Escape, there are other big issues to tackle. The creation of extra assets for the extended screen panorama is one. Attracting audiences to the screen is another.

It helps that one of Barco’s execs, the company’s “CinemaVangelist,” is also a Fox employee. Ted Schilowitz works for Barco and is also at Fox as a “futurist.” He explained the process for creating new assets for Escape:  

This pipeline was built around a Crytek gaming engine for rendering, and computing hardware from Devil & Demon (Schilowitz is president of D&D). The artists worked inside the D&D mobile production unit dubbed Devil’s Playground.

All involved are working out the challenges of producing movies specifically for Escape via a variety of different single- and multiple-camera rigs featuring digital gear. There are also ongoing tests for existing films. Schilowitz said they’ve tested Lionsgate’s The Devil’s Double, which could be re-released in the new format.

The first Escape theaters in the US, according to THR, “the Cinemark 18 & XD at the Promenade at Howard Hughes Center in Los Angeles; Cinemark Paradise 24 & XD in Davie, FL.; Cinemark Legacy Theatre & XD in Plano, TX; Cinemark @ Seven Bridges and Imax in Woodridge, IL; and Cinemark’s Redwood Downtown & XD in Redwood City, CA.” There’s also an Escape theater in Brussels.

Ticket prices for Escape will be set at each theater. 

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