Movies often push the truth when depicting scenes of advanced technology. However, The Sum of All Fears, which opened May 31, is the first film to use and properly portray high-resolution satellite imagery that has only recently been available outside of the intelligence community.
Denver-based Space Imaging supplied satellite images, worth approximately $90,000, to Los Angeles visual effects shop Rhythm & Hues Studios for its work on scenes in the Paramount Pictures film based on the Tom Clancy book. The images are used as transitional elements in the movie, presenting incredibly realistic zoom-in scenes of seven locations around the globe: the Federal Emergency and Management Agency (FEMA) headquarters (Mt. Weather, Va.); CIA headquarters (Langley, Va.); Baltimore; Damascus, Syria; Vienna, Austria; Haifa, Israel; and Sarova, Russia.
“Hollywood has always been enamored with satellite imagery, but few films outside of “The Sum of All Fears” have depicted high-resolution images and capabilities in a realistic manner,” said Mark Brender, Space Imaging’s executive director of Government Affairs and Corporate Communications. “Tom Clancy is known for his painstaking research and realism. This movie is the first to use real satellite imagery in a major way.”
“Movie director Phil Alden Robinson wanted to use transitional elements in The Sum of All Fears to help orient the audience to various locations,” said Thomas Moore, pipeline setup technical director at Rhythm & Hues. “To achieve this, we used high-resolution satellite imagery in such a way that the imagery doesn’t stand out,” Moore said. “We didn’t want the elements to be too flashy, as had been done in other films. We wanted the elements to look like realistic satellite images.”
High-resolution satellite imagery will continue to be used in films, Moore predicts. “With this type of data commercially available and half-meter imagery soon available, Hollywood can create realistic satellite images, providing audiences with a new level of detail, accuracy and entertainment,” he said.