Why Jordan Peele ‘Nope’ became the first horror movie with Imax cameras

When director Jordan Peele was in discussions about the box office hit of No, he knew one thing: He wanted the movie to be a broad spectacle. His first step was to invite cinematographer Hoyt van Hoetema to work with him on what he calls “my most ambitious film to date. I knew Hoyt was the man”.

Drama/Thriller UFO starring Daniel Kaluuya as a horse herder, who along with his sister Kiki Palmer began watching UFOs. Together with Brandon Pera in the role of Angel, the trio tried to capture the thing in a movie.

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Hoytima was asked to think about how to capture a UFO and what cameras he would choose. “I thought Imax was the best broker to do this,” says Hoytema, a frequent collaborator with Christopher Nolan.

From the start, Hoytema says, Peele was committed to the big screen and the best audience experience of the world he created on the big screen. “For me, Imax is the most profound format.”

Bell and his team visited Imax HQ at Playa Vista with Hoytema to prepare for camera tests.

The Imax experience isn’t just about experiencing the larger screen and cameras – it’s also about delivering an authentic frame to the masses. Peele shot using Kodak film and chose an aspect ratio of 1.43:1, custom-made for Imax, which enabled vast landscapes, UFO images, and riding scenes to show 40% more image.

Once Peele began testing the cameras, Bruce Markoe, Imax’s head of post-production, said, “It switched gears on how best to use the cameras in filming.”

The film’s opening moments are a visual journey, from a bloodied chimpanzee inside a television studio to Keith David on a horse as debris begins to fall from the sky. Hoytema and Peele knew the sharp decision would bring fans into this world.

Not only were Imax cameras used for filming – Peele also put the Imax camera on display. Michael Wincott, who plays Holst, is a cinematographer who joins the siblings in their attempt to capture UFO sightings on celluloid. These scenes show old Imax MK II cameras.

Hoytema says Wincott was still going to learn how to use the cameras, but he also talked about the lighting and artistic beauty of cinematography to make sure that when he was using the manually operated on-screen camera, he was doing so accurately.

Peele and Hoytema tested their shots frequently. He says, “They did many revisions at our Imax City Walk theater at Universal Studios during post-production, and they did revisions at Imax HQ. It really enabled them to improve the look and run of the film and they improved it for the format.”

Director Jordan Peele has embraced IMAX photography to capture expansive shots of the landscape.  Credit: Universal Pictures

Director Jordan Peele has embraced IMAX photography to capture expansive shots of the landscape. Credit: Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures

“No” was the first time the Imax format had been used for the horror genre, and Marco says Bell understood how to use it creatively. “He’s made a movie where the camera pushes behind the character, and he’s looking out the window. He starts small and when the camera pushes in, it travels through the window into the distance and opens. He really thought about how to shoot those sequences and how to take advantage of the larger aspect ratio.”

Jordan Peele and DB Hoyty Van Hoetima used 65mm cameras for

Jordan Peele and DB Huetty van Huetima used 65mm cameras for “No” – Credit: Glen Wilson

Glenn Wilson

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