Christopher Nolan Talks 3D, IMAX & ‘Inception’

Published 5 years ago by , Updated February 10th, 2012 at 8:04 am,

christopher nolan filming Christopher Nolan Talks 3D, IMAX & Inception

No worries, director Christopher Nolan isn’t falling into the 3D trap. Not yet, at least. Collider recently interviewed the director of Inception and asked the right questions, even getting some technical details on the filming process and his opinion on the 3D hysteria.

I’ll say right off the bat that to me, Christopher Nolan is the best filmmaker alive and every word he utters is gold, but I recognize not everybody agrees with that. So, instead of just copying his entire interview, I’ll do my best to narrow it down.

Nolan discussed, in complete detail, how they shot Inception. Considering his passion for the IMAX camera, once even saying he’d like to shoot an entire film in the 70mm format. Instead, he shot Inception in mostly anamorphic 35 mm, with certain scenes in 65 mm or VistaVision. This gives him the best possible quality without using IMAX. I’ll let the man speak for himself to elaborate.

“We didn’t feel that we were going to be able to shoot in IMAX because of the size of the cameras because this film, given that it deals with a potentially surreal area, the nature of dreams and so forth, I wanted it to be as realistic as possible.”

“So we have the highest quality image of any film that’s being made and that allows us to reformat the film for any distribution form that we’d like to put it in.”

This goes back to something SR writer Kofi Outlaw mentioned regarding the desire to see films in IMAX not shot in the format. Inception will be as close as any movie has ever come to shooting in IMAX without using the bulky and intrusive camera. That said, it is still not IMAX, but when you see it on the massive screens, it should be extremely difficult to tell a difference. You’re talking a 5mm difference in the film strip there. That’s a big advantage over reformatting a 35mm film to fit an IMAX screen.

inception trailer christopher nolan leonardo dicaprio Christopher Nolan Talks 3D, IMAX & Inception

When it came to discussing the 3D revolution, Nolan had an intriguing and fresh perspective on the subject. With Warner Bros. announcing all their tentpole films from here out will be released in 3D, this is an important conversation to have with the likely director of Batman 3.

“It’s something we’re looking at and watching. There are certain limitations of shooting in 3D. You have to shoot on video, which I’m not a fan of. I like shooting on film. And so then you’re looking at post-conversion processes which are moving forward in exciting ways.”

The way he worded that response is your typical Christopher Nolan professionalism. Clearly he doesn’t want to shoot in 3D, but I think he is aware it will eventually be a part of his work. So, while he is keeping a close eye on it, and hopefully working on a way to revolutionize it to work for his vision (a la James Cameron), you won’t see him aching to shoot a 3D Gotham any time soon.

Going back to Inception, Nolan talked about the creative process and some small hints as to the story bleed through if you look hard enough. We already know the core idea of it, but the picture becomes slightly clearer each time, while still maintaining the veil of mystery it is thriving on.

“I think over the last 10 years it stayed in my head as a concept and as a really exciting sort of narrative structural idea and this sort of heist movie thing that’s going on with the film.”

“I think Leo coming on board has been really the end of that process for me because with his attention to the emotional life of the character and what that should mean to the audience, I think I finally found that emotional connection with the material that I depend on as a filmmaker.”

The hard work and time put into the project, which Nolan pins at around 9 or 10 years in the interview, should be proof enough the film will not disappoint. Considering the genius work at the hands of Nolan in his career, it should be safe to assume he has created something unique and complete, both visually and emotionally. Not to mention, Leonardo DiCaprio’s stunning career has been filled with complex and believable characters, which this movie will need in its bizarre look.

christopher nolan batman Christopher Nolan Talks 3D, IMAX & Inception

On a different note, I found it very interesting what Nolan had to say about the tone of his films in general, specifically the Batman franchise.

“I’m sort of surprised that people would think of [the Batman films] as having a dark tone because, to me, they’re actually very optimistic and they’re actually full of, I think, emotionally positive things as well as negative things. And I think that balance of light and dark is something I look for in a story.”

I’ve always felt Nolan’s films center around characters experiencing isolation in one form or another and that is the driving force of his conflicts. Dark and light are terms thrown around with ease by people in regards to movies, but calling your film “The Dark Knight” isn’t exactly preventing the idea. While I don’t necessarily agree with Nolan about the optimism, I will be looking closer to understand what he means by it as I continue to watch his films.

At the forefront of a potentially massive blockbuster this summer, Christopher Nolan and Co. have been managing the promotional process like titans and are slowly giving us more reasons to anticipate Inception, as if we needed it. It’s nice to hear the film’s IMAX release will be close to the real thing, but I sure hope he can find a way to make 3D work for him before he inevitably implements it.

What do you think about Nolan’s vision of the future of film? How about his confidence in DiCaprio and the story? Is there even a slight chance Inception could miss the mark?

Inception releases July 16, 2010.

Source: Collider

TAGS: Inception
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  1. First of all, great article. I have to agree, Christopher Nolan is the best director in Hollywood right now. If this turns out to be a huge hit, I would put him on a list of the best directors EVER. This is my most anticipated movie of the year by far, and what I believe is also the most important movie of the year. I think it should prove that great effects should be used to enhance a story, not overwhelm it (i.e. Avatar, which was good don't get me wrong, but unprecedented effects and 3D are the reasons why it's the highest grossing film ever).

    And if Avatar was a decade long passion project from James Cameron, I can't wait to see one from a true genius like Christopher Nolan.

  2. bingo bango bongo

  3. I love this director, when you watch his film multiple times you can get something new from it, than watching it once, he's a genius, I think Christian Bale is more fit the be on Inception coz he and Bale is a wonderful pair in making films…well that's my opinion…

  4. u r absolutely right, every time i watch one of his movie over & over i discover somthin new. It's amazing hw he work he is a true genius

  5. He's basically saying 3D sucks without outright saying it sucks. WB's plan to make everything in 3D is terrible and I hope they don't force Nolan to make a 3D movie if he doesn't want to.

  6. Glass

    I agree. He knows it sucks and likes to film movies his way. He just doesn't want to bash 3D knowing the studio is all about it. The studio knows they can't force Nolan to do anything knowing he would just walk to another studio.

  7. Great update, thanks.

    To me it sounds like Nolan will not film anything in 3D but if the studios want a 3d release it will have to be post-production. And I agree with Nolan. I wouldn't see it 3d anyway. At least we know Nolan isn't greedy like the rest of hollyweird. Oh and prices for 3d just went up this weekend – shocker!

  8. how much??

  9. Not sure. Just saw the news but didn't get a chance to read the article.

  10. I'll eye at, but I'm hesitant. Nolan is a genius, but I believe that even Gods can fall (M Night).

  11. Merc

    Nolan hasn't made all gems to this point and he knows that. But M Night is different. He only had one major hit and everyone thought he was the greatest because his money got people talking because of the twist. He is no Nolan.

  12. Hello,

    I definitely see the optimism in “The Dark Knight” and “Begins”… Wayne has people like Alfred, and Rachel who are very ethically bound individuals. Even the scene where the prisoner decides that he must sacrifice his boat with fellow inmates rather than detonate the boat with civilians in TDK is a testament to just one of the emotionally positive things that Nolan plays.

    MEMENTO is much darker than The Dark Knight, imho but even that had positive notes as well..

  13. Hello,

    I definitely agree with the boat scene in TDK. I think that scene is full of optimism. But I don't think good-natured characters are enough to call a movie optimistic. Especially when one of them gets blown to a thousand pieces and the other goes into exile because the White Knight is now dead after turning evil. Sure, the ending is optimistic, but the movies as a whole?

  14. M. Night was a one hit wonder who frequently failed to impress with all his subsequent projects (but Unbreakable was good). He was great for all of 15 minutes.

  15. Could someone help me out with a question about Inception? I am wondering whether I should read the Screen Rant article clarifying the plot of Inception. I am very excited for this film and would love to know more about what it's about but Screen Rant has put a spolier alert on it. I don't like having movies spoiled for me but I have also noticed that this site sometimes puts spoiler alerts on things that aren't really big spoilers at all (like the split of Harry Potter 7). Will it really give anything important away if I read it?

  16. neontiger

    don't read it. you will be happy going into the film not knowing so much.

  17. shamalongadingdong was and never will be a god of directing. i dont even know why I'm typing thi

  18. shamalongadingdong was and never will be a god of directing. i dont even know why I'm typing thi

  19. Inception will be sick. One if not the only director that makes me excited about any project he's doing. I thought Leo was Scorseses' boy, but I think this is a good team too. Like to see Nolan reunite with Guy Pearce. Memento was so fresh and solid.

    Good article, btw.

  20. Didn't know guy pearce was in it. Nice. I bet he's in the next batman movie too.

  21. Glad he’s one person who isn’t going to 3D just because.
    Avatar is the only movie that did 3D well and was shot with it in mind. All these movies coming out today are doing after thought conversions which is just an insult to the audience who pays 3 dollars more to see a dart thrown at them.
    Even though Avatar did it well, I still didn’t enjoy it as much as the “normal” version. The picture was much more crisp and my eyes didn’t hurt so much.
    I never grew up fantasizing about the day we’d live like the Jetsons. I don’t need to feel like I’m in an actual football match and can touch the ball. I like to leave that experience for when I go to Universal Studios for rides like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!

  22. *** spoilers ahead for the Batman films ***

    I think Nolan sees _Batman Begins_ and _The Dark Knight_ as “very optimistic” because he is thinking not of the situations that occur but of how the characters handle them. Bruce Wayne channels his childhood trauma into an idealistic, principle world view with help from optimistic characters that never give up on him. Wayne, like his father, does not give up on Gotham or its citizens either. Wayne loses his manor home and his childhood sweetheart but never gives up or takes on a pessimistic world view (like the Joker has). He has countless chances to do so, and I suspect that the anguish on Wayne’s face as he keeps the Joker from falling to his death is the anguish from his battle with giving in to that pessimistic view and letting go of the Joker.

    In reference to M. Night Shyamalan’s films, _The Sixth Sense_, _Unbreakable_, and _Signs_ are all well-crafted, creative, and well-told films. Even though _The Village_ is not popularly accepted as one in the league of those three, it is a good film. _Lady in the Water_ is a bit too unconventional in its narrative structure and character development to succeed, but _The Happening_ is a fantastic rendition of a Twilight Zone-inspired story that moves his work back toward the original three films.

  23. What is wrong with you people?! Why is everyone bashing 3d so much? Did any of you see Avatar? I know people who saw that movie who thought the storyline was old, but loved it anyway because the 3D was done perfectly. How to Train Your Dragon was fairly a good implementation as well. 3D does not suck, it’s the reluctance of directors and film makers to make them 3D from the get go that is to blame for the downpour of bad films coming out. People are shooting movies without 3D in their mind at all, finishing the movie, and then going back through and editing 3D in later. 3D would be so much farther than it is now if the critics would stop bashing it and turning away from it. Two years from now they will remake Inception in 3D and it WILL suck…because it was not shot that way from the get go, the director intentionally moved away from it. This movie would have been a PERFECT 3D movie. The first thing I thought about when seeing the trailer of the effects was that this movie could easily push Avatar from the 3D greatness pedestal it is on. But since it’ll only be an afterthought years later when some editor adds it, this movie will never see it’s full 3D potential. But go ahead, keep bashing 3d, it’ll grow either way, slowly, but you can’t stop it. You people are the reason I can go buy a DLP 3D TV for the same price or cheaper than an LCD. Unfortunately, no matter how many people bash 3D, it won’t lower the price of the shutter glasses. :-(

  24. While I like 3D, I don’t feel everything needs the bells and whistles, and not everything is “better” just because it has the bells and whistles. Inception, if it is a great movie, will be a great movie whether 3D or not. For many, there are more important things than a gimmick.

  25. Especially on IMAX, 3D was irrelevant. Either way it was close to 3D in its realism.