With all the avengers battling interplanetary villains on IMAX screens these days, we forget the huge film format started as an educational tool meant to capture stunning views of the Earth and cosmos. In fact, when Christopher Nolan needed advice on shooting Interstellar, he turned to the filmmaker who knows IMAX—and the ins and outs of shooting in outer space—better than anyone: Toni Myers.
As an editor, director, and producer, Myers has been working on IMAX films shot from space for more than 30 years. Her 2010 film, Hubble 3D, grossed nearly $70 million—not bad for a 40-minute educational doc. Her latest, A Beautiful Planet (in IMAX theaters April 29), finds Myers turning her lens back on Earth itself, from 250 miles above. “When you look at the Earth from space, you can’t help but marvel at the incredible variety of colors and textures we tend to take for granted,” she says over the phone from Toronto, where she’s deep in the process of editing the film.
Over the years, Myers has trained at least 150 astronauts to film in IMAX. “Astronauts are the best learners in the world and the most clever people you would ever want to teach,” she says. This time around, she equipped four crews on the International Space Station with new handheld digital cameras whose low-light sensitivity opened new possibilities for stunning night images of Europe, the northeastern United States, and the aurora borealis. “We’ve always seen black space above the horizon, but you see stars now,” she says. “And the air glows.... It’s just wonderful.” With more than 17 terabytes of footage to pick through, Myers has had no shortage of beauty shots with which to give our pale blue dot its close-up.