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Imax Epic 'Everest' Adjusted for Video

April 01, 1999|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Watching an Imax movie on its massive, state-of-the-art screen is an experience to remember--especially the acclaimed 1998 production "Everest," which offers remarkable, breathtaking footage from atop the 29,028-foot peak.

But bringing the most successful Imax film--it has grossed more than $60 million--to video (Miramax, $20) without losing its power was a challenge. After all, the imposing majesty of the world's tallest mountain loses some luster when the screen shrinks from 50 feet high or more in an Imax theater to a 27-inch television.

"What we have done is, we actually enlarged the image a bit--about 30%," says "Everest" co-producer and co-director Greg MacGillivray. "The wide shots that work so well on the big screen, you are able to see them as medium shots or close-up shots [on the video]."

Other adjustments also were made. "We did a new sound mix for the video release," he says. "It is a little bit more kind of voice-oriented, rather than kind of environmentally oriented. You are able to follow the main story with words more easily. So with those two technological changes, I think we are able at least to make that video experience as good as it can be, without completely reediting the film."

"Everest" is the second Imax production Miramax Home Entertainment has released, following "Titanica" last year, and it hopes to do more.

"We're looking at films that make the most sense in terms of a worldwide basis," says Kevin Kasha, executive vice president of Miramax Home Entertainment.

With "'Everest," Kasha says, "it was overall a great story and a great adventure. The Imax film experience and the production value of these films translates very well to the home video market."

The 45-minute documentary, narrated by Liam Neeson, tells the story of a diverse group of explorers who are determined to reach the peak. Shot in 1996, "Everest" also chronicles the harrowing tragedy that occurred when eight climbers from other expeditions--including veteran Rob Hall--died during a savage storm.

"Almost every year on Everest, people die on the mountain, so we were prepared for that to happen," says MacGillivray. "But we were not prepared for it in the way that it happened, that it was such a huge disaster and so many people got trapped."

MacGillivray, who does not climb, spent a year interviewing climbers who could serve as characters in the film as well as camera people.

"We had a climbing corps of 10 people--five Westerners and five people from Nepal. Each of those people, except two, had been to the top of Everest before. We weren't rushed in any fashion," he says. "We had the best personnel at base camp and the best Sherpas working with us. It was a very calculated, military-type expedition. We didn't want to be rushed into any kind of dangerous situation."

The filmmaker is still shocked at the success of the film. "It is a first for our industry," says MacGillivray, "though we nurtured the success along with good marketing and planning."

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