Journey to Mecca: IMAX® isn't for sissies

"This film is more physical than another other picture I've ever worked on because of the harsh environment, climbing 2000-foot mountains carrying bulky equipment, slogging through sand and rising at 4:30 a.m. to drive 50 miles for a sunset shot, the perfect time to shoot it," says Key Grip George "Bubba" Sheffield who hails from California with more than 40 productions to his credit. Grips are responsible for "gripping" the camera to whatever edifice or vehicle is required to get the shot.

"It seems like every rock has a sharp edge or rolls out from under your foot. Add to this poisonous snakes, six-inch wide spiders, with long gold legs and burnished yellow bodies ‘built for speed,' a few scorpions and Praying Mantis, every time you kick a rock you look for something. It gets to the point where you don't care and just hope not to see anything nasty," says Sheffield. Snapping camels were additional hazards.

"We're always moving things around, building a dolly track or setting up the crane." For the 60-metre dolly shots, Sheffield's crew had to level the ground which turned to dust when they laid down the tracks. They set up the 21-foot crane almost every day. "When the director wanted to sit with the cinematographer on the crane, we had to accommodate two six-foot tall men plus the IMAX® camera, a total of 500 pounds," says Sheffield. At a two to four times ratio, this means 2000 pounds of counterweight had to placed at the opposite end of the crane. Sheffield, The tiniest movement shakes the crane Sheffield also had to fight 40 mph gusts. "With 10 men each carrying two 30-pound counterweights, it is uphill both ways," says Sheffield.

"It was a wonderful experience to be on set with crew from around the world. We were like a mini UN with well over 20 nationalities and many different faiths represented, and the majority of the cast and crew could speak several languages. French is widely spoken in Morocco and it was essential that many of the Western crew, like Daniel Ferguson, who worked directly with the Moroccan crew, were conversant in French, which is not uncommon for Canadians of course. Many people could switch with ease between Arabic, English and French. It was great to witness and be part of this linguistical delight. Of course, humour is the universal language and being able to laugh together in different languages was essential in stressful times," says Barker. Post-production was undertaken in Montreal, so speaking French continued throughout.


Heading for Saudi Arabia
The Filmmakers
The Screenplay
Casting for Ibn Battuta
The Highwayman
Ibn Muzaffar and Hamza
Ben Kingsley as Narrator
Filming in Mecca
IMAX® film logistics
Mecca in Morocco
The Camel Caravan
Camel Capers
Damascus, The Red Sea and The Nile
IMAX® Isn't For Sissies
Historical Advisors
Arabic Calligraphy
Ibn Battuta