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Author Topic: IMAX Digital exclusive of IMAX film?
Frank Angel
Film God

Posts: 5198
From: Brooklyn NY USA
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 12-20-2008 10:15 AM      Profile for Frank Angel   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Angel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
So now that IMAX is doing digital, is the goal of the company to just eventually eliminate the film-based systems althogether? Or will the theatres that are actual IMAX builds (you know, the ones with true IMAX ratio and IMAX SIZE screens) keep both systems? I mean, if the IMAX theatres own the prints which I understand that they do, what would be the point of pulling out the film system that can play those prints, at least until the prints wear out or some major failure of the projector that would make it too costly to repair? Other than booth space, of course.

And I'm assuming that the IMAX theatres which are springing up in the multiplexs which do not have film projectors will be playing only the standard Hollywood titles. In which case IMAX will be nothing more than a high-end theatre in which one can expect to see excellent presentation, but nothing more in terms of what they will see on the screen.

And that leads to the next question; does IMAX do anything different with their digital projection system other than use two projectors? Do they use the same digital print that a conventional theatre uses? And if that is the case, then it would follow that a conventional house could get the same results as IMAX by installing a second digital projector (which some do for 3D anyway, correct?). So what's to distinguish the "IMAX Experience" from the "Theatre Near You Experience," other than the logo they run before the movie?

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Julio Roberto
Jedi Master Film Handler

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From: Madrid, Madrid, Spain
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 - posted 12-20-2008 10:58 AM      Profile for Julio Roberto     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'd also like to know.

Also, what hardware are they using? It seems the Christie's 1.2" CP2000's run with a modified propietary interface. Anybody has more info?

What servers do they use? Are they single SDI to each projector or dual-dual SDI?

Supposely the new system can show either a normal or 3D content in DCI or IMAX digital format (which in itself is a superset of DCI with multiple discrete audio tracks etc).

With certain movies, then, they'll have a deal from Hollywood where they would receive the Digital Intermediate and they master their own release "prints" from there, like they did when they DRM'ed the movies. Shrek 4 is said to be one of those.

If they do their own non-DCI release, I guess on what they are doing is they are running the projectors modified for 2500:1 contrast (instead of DCI's limit of 2000:1) and maxing out the server data rate and compression ratios (whatever it maybe). Just pure speculation.

Are they "cropping" the "prints" to aprox. 1.90 native ratio when needed? What image ratio is digital Imax using when displaying Hollywood's 2.39 (that used be called Scope projected at 2.35 [Wink] ) movies?

There was talk about it in the European Digital Cinema Forum ( http://www.edcf.net/edcf_docs/DCI%20and%20OTHER%20Film%20Formats.pdf ) but Imax was always hush-hush on what they were planning on doing, specially since they were first talking to Sony and later TI offered them a deal to use DLP instead.

Anyone with access to a Digital IMAX installation can comment on all the juicy details? There is very little technical info out there.

[Smile]

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 12-20-2008 08:09 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Frank Angel
So now that IMAX is doing digital, is the goal of the company to just eventually eliminate the film-based systems althogether?
If IMAX eliminates the 15/70 film side of things they'll end up just eliminating themselves from the theater business completely.

Throwing a 2K image, just slightly better than HDTV resolution, onto a kind of oversized screen in a conventional movie theater multiplex is simply not delivering an "IMAX" experience at all. With it being "digital" changes nothing about that major short coming.

Really. Why should IMAX even stick around at all if they're just going to do a glorified version of 2K digital projection? Any movie theater company could talk to Christie, NEC, Barco, etc. and get some customized 2K dual projector rig thrown together for big screen use or 2 projector 3D use.

In pursuing the "digital" route IMAX risks becoming largely irrelevant, much in the same way THX became arguably irrelevant to commercial movie theaters over the last 10 years. Commercial movie theaters just copied some of the basics that THX did (but not everything) and merely delivered 5.1 surround sound in a loud enough, good enough standard to satisfy most people. And they threw in stadium seating as a new feature so most people wouldn't even miss THX.

I'm hoping the success of The Dark Knight and hype around its native IMAX sequences does much to educate the public about the undeniable fact that film, particularly large format film, still delivers the best motion picture quality. With IMAX, the real IMAX experience is 15/70 projection of 15/65 originated material. Anything else just isn't IMAX. And IMAX should not be sticking its brand on near HDTV resolution imagery to confuse that fact. It's just plain stupid marketing and suicidal business strategy.

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Fred Tucker
Film Handler

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From: Sugar Land, TX
Registered: Sep 2007


 - posted 12-20-2008 11:35 PM      Profile for Fred Tucker   Email Fred Tucker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I dont think 15/70 is going away anytime soon. According to the IMAX technician that did my digital install there will be a few 15/70 theatres built in Asia this year.

The content is delivered by a single Doremi server that is located in the base of the right projector. I do not know for a fact what the DCI configuration is, to be honest I had to double check the Christie manual to be sure what you were talking about. All interaction with the unit s done through a SMS console that is essentially a Windows XP based computer with a touch screen.

Image ratios vary from movie to movie just as they do for any DLP release. I am not very familiar with other IMAX systems, but my understanding is all content is essentially a DMR blow up with a few scenes that suddenly expand from cropped scope to full screen. Madagascar 2, which is flat, filled the entire screen. Eagle Eye, which is scope, was letter boxed and a few scenes filled the entire screen; I am told this is the same way with a DMR blow up but again I do not know this first hand.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 12-21-2008 11:57 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Nearly every "DMR" IMAX blow-up I have seen has retained the movie's original aspect ratio throughout the show. For 2.39:1 shows you're getting an image on the film print not much bigger than what a standard 5-perf 70mm print would deliver.

The only exceptions I've seen were The Dark Knight and Superman Returns. The Dark Knight kept its 35mm anamorphic footage in the 2.39:1 ratio while the IMAX footage really filled all of the screen. Superman Returns played in 'scope in most movie theaters. In IMAX the frame was opened up to something closer to 1.77:1 in order to get more top and bottom footage from the video cameras used to record the movie.

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Fred Tucker
Film Handler

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From: Sugar Land, TX
Registered: Sep 2007


 - posted 12-21-2008 12:03 PM      Profile for Fred Tucker   Email Fred Tucker   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Bobby,
You would know better than I, I never actually sat through Eagle Eye IMAX when we played it but the installer did a quality control screening of it and he said it expanded to fill the entire screen in a few scenes.

Makes me have to wonder how the projector can handle such a sudden shift in aspect ratio.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

Posts: 10701
From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 12-21-2008 05:12 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The projector doesn't do anything different compared to showing other 15/70 films. The 35mm imagery letter is boxed on the 15/70 frame, leaving much of the film frame black on the print. If there's any native IMAX footage on the print then that imagery will merely fill the full 15/70 frame.

In the case of Superman Returns or any other movie with only parts of it in 3D something has to be done to cue the audience to put on their 3D glasses. I saw 3D glasses icons flash on the bottom of the screen. I don't know if booth personnel were manually turning on the signal or if it was something controlled via automation.

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Frank Angel
Film God

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From: Brooklyn NY USA
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 - posted 12-21-2008 06:26 PM      Profile for Frank Angel   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Angel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Bobby Henderson
Really. Why should IMAX even stick around at all if they're just going to do a glorified version of 2K digital projection?
Well, because no company wants to shut its doors if it can help it as long as they can figure out a way to make money. Do they have IMAX theatres that they own an operate? Or do they just sell their equipment and design to other? If they have theatres that they own and operate, they might be happy just being another chain exhibitor and hope the IMAX name is enough. But as you said, sooner or later the branding will be forgotten for what it originally meant and they would be no different than any other exhibitor with a name than no one recognizes as being anything special, like as you said, THX and Technicolor; they stayed in business but not for what made them famous.

Seems to me that sooner or later this will simply make IMAX just another exhibitor with their owned and operated; as for the chains that have installed IMAX digital, once the IMAX Experience brand becomes indistinguishible from any other theatre "experience," the chains will stop spending whatever royalties they are paying now to use the IMAX name. and just stack their own 2K projectors. Why bother paying IMAX when they can stack their own Christies?

Hopefully the IMAX theatres (the ones they do own) will still keep running the type of a well-run, moviegoer-friendly operation that they have been noted for, much like what 70mm houses were vs. 35mm neighborhood grinds.

For now, IMAX does have consumer recognition and slapping that name on one of the screens in a multiplex does seem to allow a premium price. Of course whatever the time-frame it takes for the public to forget that IMAX means anything, that's how long it will take for IMAX to no long be able to sell its brand to other exbibitors. How long did it take THX to mean nothing to the public? And CinemaScope? And Technicolor?

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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From: Bountiful, Utah
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 - posted 12-22-2008 11:34 AM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Julio Roberto
I'd also like to know.

It's pretty obvious that Imax doesn't even know.... All of this can be done with "Off The Shelf" equipment too so there is very definately no need for Imax at all.

Mark

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Joe Tommassello
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From: Coatesville, PA, USA
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 - posted 12-22-2008 04:10 PM      Profile for Joe Tommassello   Email Joe Tommassello       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Bobby Henderson
I saw 3D glasses icons flash on the bottom of the screen. I don't know if booth personnel were manually turning on the signal or if it was something controlled via automation
I thought it was printed on the film. I assume it was on the "blank" film (the left eye if I recall correctly) so as not to confuse the audience should they have to run the complete (right-eye) print flat due to technical issues.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 12-22-2008 06:17 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The icons I saw looked as if they were thrown by a slide projector.

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