Stereographer and Camera Operator Noel Archambault was involved in virtually all of the large-format films shot to date, from Transitions", Niagara: Miracles, Myths and Magic", "Echoes of the Sun", "The Last Buffalo", Rolling Stones: At the Max", "Flight of the Aquanaut", "Concerto for the Earth (aka Concierto por la Terra), "The Secret of Life on Earth", "Shooting Star", "Imagine", "Into the Deep", "Wings of Courage", "Across the Sea of Time", "L5: First City in Space", "Cosmic Voyage", "The Hidden Dimension "(aka "Four Million Houseguests"), "The IMAX Nutcracker", "Mark Twain's America" and "T-REX: Back to the Cretaceous" from 1986 until his death in 1998.
Archambault studied film at Simon Fraser University where he developed a 16mm 3D camera system which he used to shoot "George Norris in Depth", winning several student film awards. He began his career with the National Film Board of Canada working as part of the camera team on "Transitions", the first large-format 3D film ever made, which debuted at Expo '86 in Vancouver, Canada.
After serving as first assistant camera on "Niagara: Miracles, Myths & Magic", he joined forces with IMAX Corporation to further 3D research, and helped design a new IMAX 3D camera. He became stereo-grapher and camera operator for IMAX's "Echoes of the Sun" and the 3D feature "The Last Buffalo", which both premiered at Expo '90 in Osaka.
Into the Third Dimension
For "The Last Buffalo" IMAX film (only the second 3D IMAX® film ever made) Stephen Low worked with Noel Archam-bault and Bill Shaw at IMAX Corporation to develop a 3D beam-splitter camera system and rig, ultimately pushing them to their limit in the challenging terrain of the southern Alberta badlands.
A poetic, immersive and surreal film without narration, "The Last Buffalo" delivers a strong environmental message. Produced for the Osaka '90 Expo "The Last Buffalo" captures nature's magic in the hoodoos and badlands of Southern Alberta. The most popular attraction at the fair, the film drew some 1,940,000 visitors during the six-month exhibition. "The Last Buffalo" went on to become an IMAX® classic.
Thrill-seeking documentarians recount some of their most challenging —
and harrowing — experiences
by Kathleen Fairweather
On May 6, 1998, I received the following message from Noel Archambault, one of the world's leading large-format 3-D cinema-tographers: "I'm sorry I can't meet you in Los Angeles for the interview. My plans have changed, and I need to be in Toronto during that weekend and the following week to begin camera testing for Galá-pagos, which has begun preproduction. Then I will be off to the Galápagos Islands for filming. I'm sorry for the change in plans, but my life isn't always predictable these days."
Those were the last words I heard from Noel before he took off for his ill-fated trip. Little did we know how prophetic this final communiqué would become: Noel died in an ultra-light plane crash while filming a 70mm volcano sequence for "Galápagos Rediscovered", a joint IMAX Corporation/ Smithsonian Institute project produced in partnership with Mandalay Pictures.
That crash, which killed both Archambault and his pilot, William Raisner, Jr., ended the life and career of one of the most brilliant 3-D cinematographers of this era.
I had been working with Archambault since last April on a feature story about his life and work as a 3-D cinematographer. I con-ducted an extensive phone interview with him from his Canadian home the week before he left to film "Galápagos Rediscov- ered", which is the story of a modern research expedition exploring the unique bio-diversity of the islands that Charles Darwin made famous.
A recent IMAX press release referred to Archambault as "a renowned stereographer and a major contributor to the development of the technical and film language of the 3-D format." His many 15-perf/65mm works include the recently released "T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous", "Mark Twain's America", "Nutcracker" and "Across the Sea of Time", in addition to numerous large-format 2-D projects.
In what ultimately became our last inter-view, the cinematographer shared some of the many logistics inherent in the making of a movie involving both aerial and under-water 3-D cinematography. Tragically, those very logistics claimed his life on June 26, 1998.
Imax cameraman dies in crash
By Eric J. Olson
July 2, 1998
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Tragedy has struck filming of "Galapagos: The Enchanted Voyage," an Imax 3-D movie being produced for the Smithsonian.
Noel Archambault, the film's camera operator/stereographer, was killed in an ultralight aircraft crash along with the pilot, William Raisner Jr., while shooting in the Galapagos Islands, according to the film's production company, Mandalay Media Arts.
The two men went missing Friday while filming aerial shots over one of the islands' volcanoes.
After a six-day search in the remote archi-pelago that involved local townspeople, the film crew, the scientific expedition crew, chartered aircraft and the Ecuadorian air force, their bodies were recovered Wednes-day on the island of Isla Isabella, the largest and least inhabited of the Galapagos.
The men were found at an elevation of 3,000 feet on Cerro Azul, one of the two most active volcanoes in the archipelago.
Archambault, an expert and pioneer in the large-format 3-D process, has worked on every Imax 3-D film made to date.
The Canadian most recently served as stereographer/camera operator on the upcoming Imax 3-D film "T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous," and as additional photo-grapher/stereographer on Sony's new IMAX 3-D release, "Mark Twain's America."
His d.p. and camera operator credits additionally include "The IMAX Nut-cracker", "Into the Deep" and "Across the Sea of Time."
Raisner, 50, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was a retired Air Force pilot and a veteran ultra-light pilot. This was his third trip to the Galapagos for filming projects.
Mandalay is "assessing the impact (of the accident) on production," according to Barry Clark, co-chairman of Mandalay Media Arts and executive producer on "Galapagos."
Clark said they are trying to determine "how quickly or if (at all) to go forward (with production)."
Stereographer and Camera Operator Noel Archambault was involved in virtually all of the large-format films shot to date, and served as stereographer and camera operator for "T-REX: Back to the Cretaceous", "The IMAX Nutcracker", "The Hidden Dimension", "L5: First City In Space" and "The Last Buffalo".
Archambault studied film at Simon Fraser University where he developed a 16mm 3D camera system which he used to shoot "George Norris in Depth", winning several student film awards. He began his career with the National Film Board of Canada working as part of the camera team on Transitions, the first large-format 3D film ever made, which debuted at Expo '86 in Vancouver, Canada.
After serving as first assistant camera on "Niagara: Miracles, Myths & Magic", he joined forces with IMAX Corporation to further 3D research, and helped design a new IMAX 3D camera. He became stereographer and camera operator for IMAX's "Echoes of the Sun" and the 3D feature "The Last Buffalo", which both premiered at Expo '90 in Osaka.
Noel Archambault, stereographic cinematographer for IMAX 3D was killed in a plane accident in the Galapagos Islands while filming scenes for "Galapagos - The Enchanted Voyage", a upcoming IMAX 3D film.
The news story in VARIETY, from July 2, 1998, contains the first comprehensive announcement of this tragic accident.
As a gentle and wonderfully creative individual, he will be missed by all of us who were touched by his presence and creative intelligence.
Memorial Services were held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, on July 8, 1998.
A scholarship fund has been set up at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, Canada), where Noel studied film and created a student stereoscopic-3D film that led to his beginnings in IMAX 3D stereography. In Noel Archambault's memory, donations can be made to the SFU scholarship fund. The donours receive a tax receipt and Noel's family is notified of the donation (not the amount) and who made it.
Donations should be sent to:
Noel Archambault Scholarship Fund Simon Fraser University - Donations Processing,
2118 Strand Hall, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, B.C., CANADA V5A 1S6
Make check payable to: Simon Fraser Univ., Noel Archambault Memorial Endowment.
1985 Noel Archambault working on IMAX "Transitions" film
Into the Third Dimension -
"The Last Buffalo" IMAX film
Stephen Low's next film, once again made for Suntory, broke new ground technically and creatively. For "The Last Buffalo" (only the second 3D IMAX® film ever made) Stephen worked with Noel Archambault and Bill Shaw at Imax Corporation to develop a 3D beam-splitter camera system and rig, ultimately pushing them to their limit in the challenging terrain of the southern Alberta badlands. A poetic, immersive and surreal film without narration, "The Last Buffalo" delivers a strong environmental message. Produced for the Osaka '90 Expo "The Last Buffalo" captures nature's magic in the hoodoos and badlands of Southern Alberta. The most popular attraction at the fair, the film drew some 1,940,000 visitors during the six-month exhibition. "The Last Buffalo" went on to become an IMAX® classic.
A tragic ultralight accident killed pilot Bill Raisner and stereographer Noel Archambault (climbing into the aircraft).
1989 Above the Hoodoos rocks by Bruno Engler, Suntory Ltd
1996 Noel Archambault, Canadian 3D IMAX cinematographer
1991 Noel Archambault and Susan Pinsky International Stereoscopic Union Congress, Paris, France by John Dennis
1996 Noel Archambault shooting IMAX film
1991 Noel Archambault, Susan Pinsky, Alexander Klein, Bob Bloomberg, David Burder and others at the International Stereoscopic Union Congress, Paris, France by David Starkman
1991 Noel Archambeault and Susan Pinsky ISU Paris Congress
by John Dennis
1991 International Stereoscopic Union Congress, Paris, France Bateaux-Mouches May David Burder, Michele Duran, Ron Labbe and Noel Archambault by David Starkman
Bug Image by Noel Archambault
1989 William Lishman buffalo sculpture by Noel Archambault
Coogar in the Hoodoos by Noel Archambault
Noel Archambault with IMAX camera in Alberta
by Kelvin Ching-Johnson
1996 LA Times CA 3 July - "Across the Sea of Time" review 2 pages
1989 Buffalo faces by Noel Archambeault
1989 Eagle perched for Noel Archambeault
1989 Eagle waits while Noel Archambault preps the IMAX camera above the Hoodoos rocks by Bruno Engler c 1989 Suntory Ltd
1989 Sculptor William Lishman works on buffalo sculpture
by Noel Archambeault 2
1998 Casper Star Tribune, Casper, WY 4 July about
William Raisner Jr and Noel Archambault article
1991 Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa, Canada 6 Nov Rolling Stones making of "At the Max" 3D IMAX film review
1991 Red Deer Advocate, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada 30 Nov
Rolling Stones IMAX filming article
Remembering Noel Archambault
by David Starkman
At the time of this writing it's been 22 years since Noel Archambault passed away. So, I have to admit that I can't remember the first time I actually met Noel in person. However, due to our business, "Reel 3-D Enterprises", we got many phone calls from him over the years, mainly to buy 3-D viewers of various formats.
There would always be some chat about 3-D and how things were going with IMAX, and what project he was working on. He shot stereo stills during filming, and would order our low cost viewers to share images with the crew. He would also order twin 35mm viewers. I remember a call that began with "I'm in Santa Barbara and we are shooting some underwater 3-D here off the California coast. Can you get me some (can't remember the model) 3-D viewers by Thursday?"
Of course, we always did our best to get him what he needed. In June 1988 he sent Susan a small surprise package. It was a 24 inch length of brown unexposed 70mm film with a "Happy Birthday Susan" message written by him on it. We put that strip on a bulletin board in our home office, and it has remained in that spot to this day. So we have this bittersweet reminder of him every day. You can see a copy of this film strip at the end of this page.
My first memory of a face-to-face conversation with him was at the 1991 International Stereoscopic Union Congress in Paris, France. One of the ISU excursions was a night cruise on the famous Bateaux-Mouches on the River Seine. Dinner was included in the cruise and I was fortunate enough to be seated next to Noel, along with David Burder, Susan Pinsky, Michele Duran, and Ron Labbe.
During the dinner I remember having a chat with him about the "stereo window" in IMAX films, and the fact that infinity points were often at the plane of the screen. As a still 3-D photographer it is most common
to set the near point, or at least the nearest main subject, at the plane of the window, with infinity behind the imaginary window. Noel explained that due to the huge size of the IMAX screen, the window is basically out of view, and, for IMAX, they like to take advantage of this to bring much more of the scene off of the screen into the audience space. This became a running chat between us in later meetings, and phone calls, over the years.
In 1992 we met again at the 3DMT (3D in Media and Technology) conference in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Susan remembers seeing "The Last Buffalo" there and talking to him about how they managed to get the close-up 3D shots of a baby buffalo being born. He said all the She buffalo were giving birth at the same time, so they had to shoot quickly.
The last time I remember talking to Noel was after seeing the 1997 IMAX 3-D Film "The Hidden Dimension" (aka "Four Million Houseguests"). This is a charming "educational" film that uses the plot of a young girl visiting the home of her late grandfather with her parents. Her grandfather has left her an album that he wrote to her, to help her discover the scientific wonders that he left behind all over his house. There are microscopes, scientific instruments, specimens, and, for us 3D fans, a vintage Taxiphote stereoscope. The parents and the girl peer into the taxiphote and see a number of black and white stereoscopic images.
In talking to Noel about this later he said that the production company had purchased the Taxiphote to use in the film, and that he shot the stereo photos used in the film with a Sputnik 3D camera. After the production he bought the Taxiphote from them for his own use.
I enjoyed that last chat, and it was a further confirmation of Noel's love of 3-D. He was an essential contributor to the 3-D excellence of all of the IMAX 3D films up to the end of his life. He is still deeply missed by all of us who knew him.
David Starkman -September 2020