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IMAX release new film shot by astronauts

AAP logoAAP 1/09/2016 Sarah McPhee

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have been moonlighting as movie stars for years.

But until recently, their films would take days to arrive back on Earth.

IMAX's latest space documentary, A Beautiful Planet 3D, is the seventh film made in co-operation with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

However, it is the first of its kind to contain digital camera footage shot aboard the ISS and streamed back to Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, before mission's end.

Retired NASA astronaut Marsha Ivins, who worked as a space consultant on the documentary, says the digital technology allowed crews to capture breathtaking imagery that previously defied shooting capabilities.

"Like the Aurora, lightning storms ... all of the nice, beautiful, dark stuff we've never been able to capture on film," she told AAP.

The American, who logged more than 1318 hours across five Shuttle missions between 1990 and 2002, regularly worked as an IMAX crew member while in orbit with a 3D camera and "a roll of film that weighed 10 pounds".

"It is very demanding to work under those circumstances because you don't do any retakes," she said.

"Every shot in every one of those movies was the first and only take."

She said the technological shift for the new film, with unlimited takes and a more dynamic camera range, meant director Toni Myers and director of photography James Neihouse could review the footage and submit feedback from mission control.

Myers relayed details including focus, exposure, which window to shoot from and a shot list based on current weather patterns, but gave the crew "licence to be creative", Ivins said.

"She ended up with 11 terabytes of data. One would hope there is maybe a dozen more movies there," she said.

Ivins said the sheer quantity of footage provides audiences with a unique 45-minute glimpse of life in space.

"I sat on seven million pounds of explosive rocket fuel and then eight-and-a-half minutes later I was orbiting the planet," she said.

"What you're getting is the real emotional mindset of a crew looking down on Earth."

Aside from the never-before-seen scenic shots, the film - narrated by actress Jennifer Lawrence - also includes footage of drought-stricken California, deforestation and the impact of climate change.

"It's important for people to actually see the real footprint that we've put on this very fragile planet of ours," Ivins said.

'Movie-goers are so used to seeing CGI and digital effects. I think a dose of reality is good."

* A Beautiful Planet 3D opens in IMAX Sydney and Melbourne on September 8

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