Tornado Alley Sweeps into TheatersMar 20th, 2011 | By Roy Rasmussen | Category: Art and Entertainment
Storm Chasers star Sean Casey’s IMAX documentary Tornado Alley swept into theaters this weekend, providing an exhilarating 3-d surround-sound close-up of the power of tornadoes. The film uses special vehicles and cameras to allow viewers to experience the sights and sounds of what it’s like to be in the heart of one of nature’s most violent storms.
Tornado Alley is named after the area of the United States where tornadoes occur most frequently, between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachians. The film records science’s most ambitious effort yet to understand the dynamics and origins of tornadoes, the Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment 2 (VORTEX2) project.
To film tornadoes from the inside, Casey and his VORTEX 2 team built two mobile armored trucks called Tornado Intercept Vehicles, the TIV and TIV2. The TIV2 is the main vehicle shown in the film, though both vehicles were used to obtain footage for the film. Built on a Dodge Ram 3500 platform, the TIV2 has been modified to withstand the storm by adding an armored shell, ground-piercing stabilizing spears, a third axle for six-wheel drive capability, and other modifications. A military-style filming turret shoots film instead of bullets.
Storm Chasers draws from footage of over eighteen tornadoes filmed over eight years. It cost an estimated $4 million to produce.
The film’s producer Don Kempf is president and co-founder of Giant Screen Films, which specializes in the production and distribution of giant-screen IMAX films and feature documentaries. Scriptwriter Paul Novros is vice president of Graphic Films, which specializes in large-format and special-venue films. The film is narrated by Bill Paxton, who starred in the tornado disaster film Twister.
Casey, a 1992 UCLA Film Studies graduate, has produced documentaries and music videos for clients such as the US Marines, the Violent Femmes, and Pond. Since 1994 he has produced a number of IMAX films, covering topics such as volcanoes, sharks, Africa’s Serengeti Plains, and the Alaskan wilderness. In 2007 he began starring on Storm Chasers on the Discovery Channel. The show follows teams of storm chasers as they attempt to film tornadoes in Tornado Alley. To learn more about the show and watch clips, visit the Storm Chasers website.