There has been a lot of speculation the past few months about IMAX entering the residential A/V market. Will we be seeing “IMAX home theaters” in the near future? We spoke with Brian Bonnick, chief technology officer, IMAX Corporation, about those rumors and what it takes to deliver an IMAX-like experience in the home.
What are the differences between the production techniques used for IMAX movies and typical movies?
IMAX is unique in that it engages with filmmakers throughout the pre-production and post-production processes to help bring their creative vision to life. The level of IMAX’s involvement varies by film and can range from acting as a consultant on what equipment to use during production to working with the filmmaker to specially format their film to show more of the original image exclusively in IMAX.
Examples of this include Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and Sam Mendes’ Skyfall. IMAX can also provide its high-resolution IMAX cameras to filmmakers and examples of this include Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises and Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. These cameras deliver unprecedented quality and a more immersive experience in IMAX theaters.
IMAX always goes out of its way to try and accommodate filmmakers’ desires to push the boundaries in cinema technology.
In terms of post-production, all blockbuster films that are presented in IMAX theaters go through IMAX’s Digital Re-mastering (DMR) process. This is IMAX’s proprietary method of turning an already powerful movie into a breathtaking IMAX blockbuster with unparalleled image and sound quality. IMAX spends months on location and in the editing room of its DMR facilities with the director and technical teams of each film re-mixing the sound, meticulously adjusting the saturation, contrast, brightness and hundreds of details in virtually every frame to present the film at its best.
Will consumers see IMAX releases in theaters that offer 4K resolutions? Are there plans to release videos to home consumers in 4K resolutions?
Ensuring the highest-quality, best movie going experience for audiences is our top priority at IMAX and we are absolutely vigilant and proactive in maintaining this. Given several variables, such as the lack of 4K content, the overall image quality of presentation with IMAX’s dual-2K projection is currently better than standard 4K.
With that being said, IMAX is currently developing our next-generation laser projection system from the ground-up, which represents the largest research and development [R&D] project in the history of IMAX. This state-of-the-art solution will incorporate dual-4K laser digital technology and will solve the major limitation of current 4K projection technology by providing a brightness and clarity not currently attainable, as well as blacker blacks and a wider color gamut.
IMAX has embraced 3D, but now it appears interest in 3D is waning. How will 3D entertainment fit into the entertainment landscape at the theater and at home?
IMAX is 2D and 3D agnostic and will continue to support the director’s creative vision by presenting films in their format of choice.
The use of IMAX 3D technology lends itself well to certain films and filmmakers continue to engage audiences by incorporating 3D into their films. The success of recent films like Avengers and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are proving that the right film presented in 3D can be very successful among consumers.
Our objective is to continue to provide filmmakers with the best 3D technology from capture to presentation. We want to create the most immersive and realistic 3D experience for our audiences worldwide.
The transition to digital has opened up more opportunity to experiment with 3D technology, whether it is filming in a higher frame rate such as Peter Jackson did or leveraging new laser technologies to increase the brightness projectors output, which is obviously an important factor when you are wearing glasses in a theater.
In terms of the in-home experience, I believe success is tied to a combination of the right technology and the right content [from a subject and access perspective]. For example, action movies, sports and gaming can benefit from 3D where as a romantic comedy or sitcom may seem odd or ineffective.
Over the past several years an increasing amount of anamorphic solutions, including screens, lenses and processing options have enabled homeowners to enjoy aspect ratio correct movies in the home. What recommendations would you make to professional electronics installers to help them deliver an IMAX experience in the home?
While it’s certainly true that technology in the home is improving, what makes IMAX stand apart is that we can deliver an event-like experience that you can’t find in the home.
It’s not as simple as adding a large television or projection system and surround sound. A combination of many proprietary technologies and architecture are combined to create The IMAX Experience. This architecture and technologies include:
- IMAX manufactures the highest resolution cameras in the world
- IMAX’s proprietary DMR (digital re-mastering) process, which enhances the visual and audio of the film
- IMAX’s revolutionary projection technology, which delivers crystal-clear images
- IMAX’s powerful audio system, which delivers laser-aligned sound
- IMAX’s customized theater geometry, which maximizes the audiences field of view.
What you often find in the high-end home theater and commercial theater environments are a combination of technologies from different manufacturers pulled together to create a full system. There are several disadvantages to this approach, the main one being that each component was not necessarily designed to work with one another (or more importantly complement one another). We take a holistic approach to creating our experience, playing the role of manufacturer and integrator. We also take quality monitoring very seriously. It’s one thing to promise the best experience and another to promise the best experience after the 1,000th showing.
Are there any plans for IMAX to support the electronics industry in ways that THX, the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Joe Kane Productions have done with training, software and other initiatives to help improve the quality of the home video experience?
IMAX is a partner in a 3D channel, 3net, with Sony and Discovery. We have developed collateral, including a 3D production guide, which is aimed at helping producers as they plan to create programming for 3D television.
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Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.