MARIBETH SOLOMON (2002) - Page 1

Space Station 3D (2002) reunites co-operative partners NASA and Lockheed Martin for the world's first 3D IMAX film photographed in space. Directed by the versatile Toni Myers, Space Station also features narration by Tom Cruise.

"The minute I saw the amazing 3D footage shot by the astronauts in space, I knew I had to be involved with this very special film," Cruise enthusiastically states in IMAX' press release.

Audiences will experience the vastness of space in far greater scope, observing fourteen nations constructing the massive space station, seemingly inches from their fingertips. In addition to director Myers, the film also marks the sixth IMAX space film scored by Maribeth Solomon and Micky Erbe, the husband-and-wife team best known for their Grammy-Nominated theme and Gemini-Winning music for Gene Roddenberry's Earth: Final Conflict (1997 - 2002), which featured vocal work by their daughter, Leah Erbe, who recently contributed original songs to writer/director Peter Cho's Changing Times.

The scoring couple has more than ten IMAX films to their credit, and yet they continue to find new ways to expand the musical landscape offered by the world's best-known large film format.

Size is clearly the biggest obstacle, as a close-up produces a face as big as a low-rise office tower; and rudimentary edits and effects - cuts and dissolves - have greater impact, as though you've just been moved around like a chess piece from the bottom of the ocean floor to Times Square, with passersby by and traffic in full motion.

Recognizing the impact of the IMAX scope was exploited in the company's first commercial venture for Ontario's then-new amusement park, Ontario Place, situated at the edge of Toronto's waterfront. Opened in 1971, the park is crowned with a huge IMAX cinema dome (the Cinesphere), and a surrounding white grid-work hung over interconnected water pools.

The world's first permanent IMAX theatre, the Cinesphere, remains a gathering place for tourists, film fans, loads of families, and continuous school outings. Plenty of ex-children can recall their first IMAX experience with North of Superior, the first IMAX film directed by Graeme Ferguson and edited by Toni Myers.

Made in 1971 and still playing around the globe, the film's exploitation of Ontario's land and waterways remains a thrilling ride, though a contributing factor to the film's eternal success lies in the film's stunning intro.

Percussive bars of the film's score play rather conservatively from a modest array of speakers, reflecting the raw, natural splendor of an aerial glide over forests and Ontario's typical rock-edged lakefront. The pretty pictures occupy just a smidge of the IMAX screen, and represent a standard 35mm projection on an average cinema screen.

After a few bars, the entire IMAX screen fully illuminates with a continuation of the aerial glide, and the score's thumping drums boom rather madly through the discreet 6-track surround sound system. Lake Superior's escarpment passes beneath, and the tribal pounding increases in ferocity as the journey becomes a fluid rollercoaster ride, veering above, below and at sharp angles, while trees, rocky cliffs and vast water expanses glide below.

"Well, that was two drummers practically breaking their legs there," recalls Maribeth Solomon, with genuine laughter. "No synthesizers were harmed in the making of that film, 'cause they weren’t around yet."

Since 1971, Solomon and Erbe have scored feature films and several TV movies and network series, and continued to collaborate with Ferguson and Myers, refining their skills with each unique project. Pioneers of surround sound and sound design, the composing team gradually mapped out the dos and don'ts for large film format scoring.

For Solomon, scoring in discrete surround sound is an exilharating experience. “You learn all these little tricks, but there’s no tricks to doing the right thing. There’s also these little enhancements that you can do for the medium that experience has sort of helped us with, [like] if we just spectrum the sound a little different here, or if we sort of shadow the speakers a little bit differently, or if we have a solo instrument and we double it back here, or if we put a little whisper track in the top speaker.

"It’s more of a macro canvas, and yet, paradoxically, the little things come out more too, so there’s just nowhere to hide. It’s a big, huge, kind of colourful textural palette, but you really have to pay attention. [Audiences] love the little details and they notice them, and I’m always surprised that people will say, ‘Oh, I liked what you put on the top speaker there; you had a harp there, and I noticed it and it felt like it was coming right over your head.’”

In order to create some of that motion, close collaboration with the sound effects crew is vital to the film score's finalization. "We get along great with sound people, because instead of fighting with them, we’ve learned how to work together with them over the years, so... they’re our best friends."

Read the DVD review!

North of Superior (title sequence)




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