Denis Villeneuve revealed in an interview that Dune has been shot in both the IMAX and the Dolby Atmos formats and audiences will be able to choose which to watch. Villeneuve also explained that he tried shooting in film but it didn’t work insofar as it did not have the desired effect.
I’m a little confused by the use of Dolby Atmos in the article though. Atmos is an audio format so it should be able to coexist with IMAX. The article is in French so perhaps the intention was to claim Dolby Vision, which is the HDR video format? Or perhaps Villeneuve is trying to say that the movie has been filmed visually in IMAX with Atmos providing the audio engineering. I’ll quote his statement here and let you judge and decipher.
We shot the film in two ways. Digital formats now allow us to shoot straight in IMAX. I wanted to shoot in film first, but after a few tests, I felt it didn’t give the right feeling. The result was a nostalgic aspect that didn’t work with a production that we really wanted to push forward. I love the IMAX version because it’s super immersive, especially since in this story, the human being becomes overwhelmed by the power of nature. I’m just as in love with the Dolby Atmos version, because it’s the most precise and powerful in terms of sound. I recommend both!
Shooting Dune on film during test runs gave the film an overtly nostalgic feel it seems, when Villeneuve and team were looking for something more forward looking. In that sense, the desire here is not unlike what George Lucas had with the Star Wars prequels. Digital technology was new back then and films were only beginning to tap into shooting footage that audiences would later associate with a no-grainy, spotless look.
On the other hand, there are directors who prefer the grain and dynamic range that film offers. Christopher Nolan, Villeneuve’s supportive friend, is a good case in point. He’s continued using film for all his modern productions, often resorting to using IMAX cameras. And his movies are a testament to the fact that when shot the right way, film can look as terrific and awe-inducing as digital can.
Villeneuve also cleared the air in regars to a director’s cut, stating that nothing of that sort exists. The remark came as a joke to Jason Momoa’s humorous claims of wanting to see a 4 to 6 hour cut of the movie, prompting fan speculation as to whether such a cut even existed. Perhaps Villeneuve felt clearing the air was a better response in this case.
Dune is set to release on October 22, 2021. Before that, it will have its premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 3, followed by the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11.