MarketSaw: Not All IMAX Screens Are Created Equal

April 30, 2009 – 3:02 pm

After a screening of the new Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen trailer in IMAX, MarketSaw takes a look at the different types of IMAX films and venues available:

1. The highest quality IMAX experience is that of footage shot on IMAX cameras using IMAX film (69.6 mm by 48.5 mm) being run through a special IMAX projector onto the large, tall IMAX screen. For example, The Dark Knight has multiple scenes shot and projected in what I like to call “true IMAX,”, as will Revenge of the Fallen. As for “true IMAX 3D”, some IMAX 3D documentaries are filmed and projected this way, but as of yet no major hollywood film has been completely shot and projected in true 70mm IMAX 3D.

2. The second highest quality IMAX experience is that of footage – either 35mm or digital 2k/1080p – being “blown up” using a proprietary process that IMAX refers to as DMR (Digital Remastering), which employs digital methods to reduce film grain/pixelization, and then prints the result onto IMAX film stock. This was the way I saw Transformers tonight. Watching a 2k/1080p or 35mm film “blown up” to IMAX stock in this way is definitely more impressive than watching it in a regular 35mm or digital projection theater, but it is still quite a bit below the level of detail and clarity of watching something like those specially shot scenes from The Dark Knight, the super high resolution of which (along with my close proximity to the giant screen) made me believe I was looking through a crystal clear window into another world.

3. Here is what you absolutely have to avoid: IMAX digital. This process is simply two stacked 2k projectors. I saw Watchmen in an IMAX digital theater, and the image quality was dreadful: incredibly pixelated and with a ton of digital artifacts. The main reason for this low quality? The fact that IMAX digital is essentially a 1080p image digitally projected onto a huge screen which you will be sitting relatively close to. Try sitting less than one image height away from your 1080p TV, and you will see the pixels. IMAX digital looks even worse than that.

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