Watch: How IMAX Theaters Get Upgraded to Keep Up with the Times

October 11, 2013
Source: Collider


With technological advances happening faster than the businesses that use them can keep up, it takes quite an effort to upgrade and get with the times. In the case of IMAX theaters around the world, they have to be maintained and updated in order to keep the high quality theater experience running smoothly. For those who have ever wondered how a movie theater, especially a giant one like an IMAX theater. Well, one of the IMAX screens in Melbourne, Australia posted a behind-the-scenes featurette showing the hard work that goes into upgrading the theater. It's pretty nerdy and technical, but it's worth checking out. Watch below!

Here's this look at upgrading an IMAX theater, brought to our attention by Collider:

There's also an explanation as to the difference between IMAX digital projection and 70mm film projection. The latter has become more and more scarce as theaters around the world change to the cheaper digital format. Of course, the digital projection is still gorgeous, but the 70mm film projection is unparalleled and truly stunning. As more movies hit the IMAX screen, the experience of the big big screen has been cheapened a little bit, but we're always keen on letting fans know just what films are worth spending the extra cash on. Right now everyone should see Gravity in IMAX 3D to really immerse yourself in the film.

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The difference between digital and film IMAX was night and day. You just can't reproduce the clarity of 70mm in digital. I'm fortunate enough to have a film IMAX nearby (IMAX Navy Pier) I just hope it doesn't get converted anytime soon.

Anthony Lopez on Oct 11, 2013


I am with you on that. I live an hour from Grand Rapids' 70mm screen. I think they already converted it, but I also think it can still do 70mm. I am not sure. I know "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" was shot using IMAX cameras for most of the action. I am going to GR to see it.

Stage Actor on Nov 20, 2013


I sat in on the TIFF IMAX panel and found it really interesting that most of the films that are shown in IMAX aren't shot in IMAX (on 70mm film), but rather are post converted from 2K masters. Apparently it cost IMAX between 1-2 Million dollars to have a team of specialists go through the 2K master and "up-res" it to be shown on their screens. Apparently Roger Deakins hated the look of the up-res so much he wouldn't let their team "improve" his image. Also, I believe the reason they use 2 projectors is to make sure the film is bright enough for that giant screen. I don't think it helps resolution at all. I always thought IMAX meant you were getting something more, but unless you are actually watching something shot and projected from 70mm film, the difference isn't all that impressive - it's just bigger and louder. And, you are either stuck in a very un-cinematic aspect ration (the IMAX guys kept saying "you get an extra 13% on the top AND the bottom, so you actually get to SEE MORE") or you have to distractingly slide between aspect ratios like they did in the IMAX version of TDKR. I also find that unless you are in the most optimal seats, IMAX 3D is pretty touch and go. I prefer the Ultra AVX projection we get in Canada: I can choose my seats, the screen is large enough to soak up my field of view without having to move my head the whole movie, and I don't have to sit through the 1990's-style, masturbatory, laser-show off the top.

mikefly on Oct 12, 2013


I imagine the two projectors are mostly for 3D & HFR content. Though, with both of them sync'd for "standard" IMAX / upsized regular content, probably lots less taxing on the lamps. (netting more hours / lamp strikes - if they ever turn them off) In my neck of the woods, the IMAX screen is simply the best theater. Same venue, one of the other main screens - left stereo channel hasn't worked for... maybe years now. Brought it to their attention multiple times... just stopped going to regular showings at that theater. Sad.

avconsumer2 on Oct 14, 2013


The two projectors are to improve the brightness and hide the pixel grid, that's it. I've read this multiple times. The image is only 2K if the digital projectors are used. If 70mm is used then the resolution is up in the air. Some movies are shown in digital, some are transferred to 70mm and one or two a year are partially shot on 70mm film. Stuff on 70mm, wether it be content that was transferred or shot natively will always look better than the 2K digital projectors. The one thing I don't get is how they decide what movies will be projected digitally and what will be transferred to 70mm. Theoretically The Hobbit would be transferred to 70mm because it was shot in 5K. After the movie is mastered with all of the effects though I'm sure the end result is 4K or lower. Still much better than 2K though obviously. I really need to talk to someone who works for IMAX as this stuff interests me. Most IMAX theatres wether they be 70mm+Digital or just Digital aren't equipped for HFR either (some are). IMAX is upgrading to a dual 4K laser projection system next year though. In Canada we have UltraAVX, in the states they have RPX, both of which are auditoriums with 4K projectors, reserved seating, wall-to-wall screens and either Dolby Atmos or Dolby 7.1. In both projector quality and sound capability they have IMAX beat, at least for now (IMAX is louder but AFAIK is 6.1 channels). IMAX still thinks they're better though because all of their equipment is proprietary so you're always getting a consistent experience. They also fine tune the picture/sound for use with their equipment, whereas the regular masters of movies are made to work with the "lowest common denominator". That blurb is a quote from them actually.

RobbersWireless on Oct 17, 2013


Aaaahhh. Gotcha. Learned something new. Saw that about the laser systems - neat - didn't think the tech was quite there yet. Sadly, have yet to witness the RPX or Atmos yet. Nothing quite there in my locale. So bad locally in fact, doing research for a quasi home theater myself. Just learned also (now sure how I missed it,) that IMAX is also doing "private" theaters now - tad (heh!) out of my price range starting @ $2 million. One can dream!

avconsumer2 on Oct 17, 2013


I am hopeful that once the govt shutdown that has shuttered the Smithsonian museums ends, the Udvar-Hazy annex to the National Air & Space museum will be showing Gravity. That's the closest 70mm screen that shows theatrical releases. Sometimes the D.C. branch does, but it's closed right now too 🙁

VAharleywitch on Oct 12, 2013


I have seen several films on IMAX and I will always drive the extra hour it takes to see the 70mm print. I still remember the first time I saw "The Dark Knight" on IMAX 70mm. The opening sequence blew my mind. I am going to see "Hunger Games: Catching Fire" on 70mm. If it isn't 70mm, then it isn't IMAX.

Stage Actor on Nov 20, 2013

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