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Wild Safari 3D
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by Greg Ursic

"Safari on a budget."
4 stars

Safaris used to be the domain of people with more money than common sense, who went to Africa in search of the Big Five - the elephant, Cape Buffalo, leopard, rhinoceros and lion - so named because they were considered to be the most dangerous animals on the continent. The goal was to track them down the Big Five and bring their heads back as trophies and conversation pieces.

After nearly a century of mindless devastation, much of Africa's big game was on the verge of extinction and conservation efforts began in earnest. Through the hard work of governments and volunteers, wildlife is experiencing a gradual comeback, and today’s safari-goers arm themselves with cameras instead of guns and take home snapshots for their walls. For most of us however, going on safari remains a dream. The people at Imax have done their best to bring you a little bit closer to your dream.
While you can tune into a documentary about exotic animals and locales almost any time of the day on The Discovery Channel or Animal Planet, the concept takes on an entirely new dimension in Wild Safari 3D - literally. For those who might be a bit antsy about traditional 3-D films i.e. cheesy special effects, post viewing blurry vision, a nasty headache and motion sickness, you can rest easy: Imax films combine state of the art sound and video technology to deliver the ultimate 3-D movie-going experience.

In this outing the viewer is plopped into the passenger seat of Liesl Eichenberger's open-air land rover and sets out on a 3000 mile South African odyssey to track down the infamous Big Five.
The immersive experience brings you up close and personal with animals you would do well to give space in real life (a colleague's friend was killed on safari several years when she got too close to a bull elephant). It feels so real, that on several occasions when Eichenberger, a zoologist and field guide, was pointing at something I found myself shifting in my seat to get a better view.

Eichenberger also delivers a running commentary about the animals, their habits, and the realities of the safari experience - contrary to most people’s expectations they'll be lucky to see more than one or two of the Big Five during the course of their journey. The leopard, for example given its nocturnal leanings is rarely seen during the day (of course given that pairs spend an inordinate amount of time boinking - typically 100 times in a 3 day period - they may just be off recuperating). While tracking down the animals proved to be a daunting challenge, shooting them in 3-D was even more difficult.

Most 3-D films take place in controlled environments i.e. cameras in plane cockpits or racing cars. Having to track and shoot wildlife while bouncing around in an open 4X4 posed special challenges, which necessitated the creation of custom rigging to keep the cameras stable. In addition, the film makers had to devise custom zoom lenses to capture the close-up action, and they usually had mere seconds to take manual readings to properly expose the shots, and ensure that the stereo images were synchronized. And they had to manage all this without spooking or provoking the animals.

Whereas Imax films tend towards style over substance, Wild Safari 3D tones down the flash and pace. A soothing soundtrack, candid close-ups that dare you to reach out and touch the animals, and the subtle blending of education with entertainment, make for a novel take on the traditional documentary.

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originally posted: 04/19/05 16:39:29
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User Comments

7/04/05 Natasha Colemont 5 stars
6/26/05 Michelle Great! 4 stars
6/14/05 Gigi Block A thrilling movie adventure 4 stars
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Directed by
  Ben Stassen

Written by
  Ben Stassen

  Liesl Eichenberger

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