In their ongoing look into IMAX technology, Gizmodo reveals the digital re-mastering process (DMR) IMAX utilizes to convert 35mm movies into “The IMAX Experience.”
IMAX film is—unquestionably—far more impressive than any other standard on the block, analog or digital. So how the heck can IMAX claim they can take a normal 35mm film, like Star Trek, and play it on IMAX screens?
To be fair, this insanely high resolution 70mm film format is only used in the huge free-standing IMAX theaters found in museums and parks throughout the world. As you might recall from our previous story on IMAX “retrofitting” in multiplexes, IMAX’s digital projection system used in those theaters is a mere 3K or 4K in resolution. There’s definitely a double standard, and though it’s still an impressive theater experience, it’s not the same and you have the right to feel a bit ripped off if you’re expecting a 70mm print.
But regardless of the film’s destination, it is carried through roughly the same process known as DMR (which, enigmatically, stands for “digital re-mastering”), which starts with a digital encoding of a standard 35mm Hollywood film, and ends with a remastered, (usually) higher-resolution digital format for multiplexes, and a bunch of reels of remastered crazy-high-resolution 70mm film for the true IMAX theaters.
During my day at IMAX HQ, I kept referring to the process as “uprezzing”—the same mundane miracle that allows DVDs to play on HDTVs. But every time I used this term, it was met with a shiver from production personnel. After seeing their process, I still think “uprezzing” fits, but blowing up a film’s resolution requires a lot of tweaking and artistry, so I can appreciate their reaction a bit more.
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