Welcome to Earth in 500,000 gigabytes.
On Friday night, Darren Aronofsky’s newest film, Postcard From Earth, had its world debut at The Sphere in Las Vegas, and it’s not hyperbole to say that it’s unlike any movie you’ve ever seen. For starters, it’s the first time anyone has ever seen images in 18K resolution, the acclaimed filmmaker boldly claimed.
“I love planet Earth and I want to celebrate her, and so I think the film really is a love letter to Mother Earth,” he told Rolling Stone prior to the screening, “and I think people will feel it’s definitely got the happiest ending of anything I’ve ever done before.”
The 50-minute film begins with a sci-fi feel, as two characters land on a new planet via spaceship. While in their spacecraft, a voice begins to remind the duo about Earth, the land they left. Suddenly, pristine footage of the planet fills the 16K x 16K screen. The voiceover, which is used somewhat sporadically to allow the images to shine, describes the Earth as a “magnificent symphony frozen in time.” Postcard From Earth immaculately highlights the picturesque beauty of canyons, prairies, mountain ranges, and gorges. Aronofsky shot the film with an 18K Big Sky camera specifically for The Sphere.
Due to an infrasound haptic system built into the seats, vibrations can be felt when elephants walk, rockets launch or stormy weather lights up the screen. Wind and scents are also pumped into the theater at times, somewhat similar to the popular Soarin’ Over California ride at Disneyland’s California Adventure Park (but without feet-dangling.)
Although The Sphere opened last week when U2 began a 25-show residency, the orb has been thrilling Las Vegas for months and constantly changing the city’s skyline. On July 4, the first image — an American flag — appeared on the exterior dome of the 366-feet-tall, 516-feet-wide venue. Since then, The Sphere’s exterior has transformed into a pumpkin, a basketball, the moon, Earth, an emoji, and other circular-shaped objects. The interior is arguably more impressive, as it features a wraparound LED screen capable of displaying 256 million colors, 167,000 hidden speakers, and even five humanoid robots greeting guests in the foyer.
This film, though, reaches far beyond the United States, as the filmmaker travels to Mexico, Greece, the United Kingdom and India, among other places. Postcard From Earth was filmed in seven continents to fully feature the planet. No living species is too humble for the screen either, as Aronofsky captured the essence of nearly every living creature on Earth, including humans, reptiles, mammals, insects, and fish — and it’s done in remarkable detail thanks to the visual capabilities of The Sphere.
“This was very different. It’s a wraparound screen, so it’s a 270-degree lens. There’s nowhere for anyone to be. Everyone’s hiding on every shot,” Aronofsky said of the filmmaking process. “You have to be incredibly observational and really looking around at everything. If one thing goes wrong in the shot, it’s very hard to fix things.”
Although certain elements were new to Aronofsky in the creation of the film, the content isn’t, as he’s had extensive experience shooting natural history for National Geographic. Postcard From Earth is like a National Geographic film on steroids due to the overwhelming Sphere screen, which measures the size of four football fields.
While addressing the 5,000-person crowd before the premiere, Aronofsky said, “This is a real historical moment. No one has ever seen 18K images before. There’s 500,000 gigabytes of data that we’re about to flood you with for the next 50 minutes.”
He then joked, “We don’t know what that’s going to do to someone’s brain.”