MONTREAL — COLIN LOW has built one of the National Film Board's greatest careers, going back some 40 years to his apprenticeship with Norman McLaren, the legendary maker of animated films. His own productions range from ``The Romance of Transportation,'' an Oscar-nominated cartoon, to ``Universe,'' a voyage through space that influenced science-fiction films around the world.
Mr. Low has lost none of his enthusiasm for the NFB brand of filmmaking over the years, but his interests have taken a new turn lately - to ``wraparound stereoscopy,'' a concept involving 3-D images on gigantic IMAX screens.
``Conventional films are like a skimming of reality,'' Low says. ``They peel the surface off reality, and we get almost hypnotized by them.
``I'm interested in films that go beyond the surface of things.'' This means conquering some limitations of everyday cinema.
For example, Low says, it's extremely hard to capture ``the very large and the very small'' in regular movies.
``It can be done through analogy and metaphor,'' he notes, ``but actually conveying a sense of them is difficult.''
By contrast, Low says, 3-D images on a multistory-high IMAX screen allow the viewer to see and feel even far-reaching states of largeness, smallness, and other extreme conditions.
He adds that wraparound stereoscopy offers an ``intimacy'' that the human image has long lacked in conventional films.
``We're used to figures that are large and flat,'' he explains. ``But stereoscopy can give an image that's the right size, and is very close to us - while we're sitting in a theater with lots of other people!''
In all, Low concludes, wraparound 3-D represents a new and tremendously exciting dimension for moviemakers to explore - in human-scale stories as well as special effects.
Low is responding to the new opportunity by launching into some scriptwriting projects.
``I probably won't make films like this myself,'' the veteran cin'easte says with a smile, ``but I want to be involved with them.
``The things we can do are going to be fantastic!''