Since this blog is dedicated to the 3D experience, I thought it’d be nice to discuss iMax Vs. standard movie experiences. Before we continue, let’s get the differences out of the way.
The difference between iMax and standard screen is that iMax screens are immersive and 6 times larger than standard theater screens. The standard screens at the cimemas have plain and limited pixel resolution. iMax’s audio-visual quality beats regular movie experience by far.
Regardless of the genre, all films are designed to tell a great story. This is possible thanks to the combination of various elements as literature, film, and sound, among others.
The quality of the image and the constant improvements in the user experience have become important objectives for the industry.
The different image formats have evolved as fast as the history of the cinema itself and this has greatly modified the parameters to consider when issuing a film.
Hence the importance of knowing what the relevant differences that said formats has, in order to choose one of them properly.
In this sense, the image formats are divided into two: the standard format and iMAX.
The iMax Movie Experience
IMAX arises from the appearance of a single screen with a large projector running.
Its history goes back to the mid-60s, with the appearance of Multiscreen Company.
Its team detected that the multi-screens system could be simplified with the incorporation of a much more powerful, but unique equipment, being this the birth of the iMAX format.
The company has grown progressively and has positioned itself as a generator of equipment for audiovisual production and reproduction (from cameras to screens) that can be found around the world.
Although the cost to pay for a ticket to see a movie is much higher, the experience is far from being equal to the standard projection of films.
Since iMAX is so popular over the years, it is normal to ask where this popularity really lies and to what extent it is appropriate to speak of superior characteristics in front of standard format.
For this, there is no better way to do that than through the comparison between the iMAX elements and the traditional elements of the screens.
iMAX Vs. Standard screen
The iMAX screen has a relevant feature compared to the standard screen, and this is the most obvious of all: its large size.
However, there are many other aspects to consider when it comes to its screen that become important differentiating elements.
iMAX can be found in two sizes within the rooms, one of tapes and other digital. The first, despite being older and more expensive for the company itself, offers an image quality even higher than digital.
The latter, on the other hand, differ from the traditional screens in a diffuse line, differentiating themselves by the image quality and their size.
To see this, just look at the types of iMAX screens. In theaters, the rectangular screen is approximately 16 meters high by 22 meters wide, but can be even larger, reaching 30 meters.
This is also visible within the iMAX domes, which are more exclusive and differentiated.
Here we talk about a hemispheric screen that covers the entire theater and whose domes can also reach 30 meters in diameter. All this with a high resolution.
Now, the resolution of a projection is determined – and therefore limited — according to the number of pixels.
The iMAX technology allowed the incorporation of other external elements (two projectors instead of one, modified xenon lenses, etc.) to increase the number of pixels and, consequently, the quality of the image.
Most of the films come in a standard format of 35 millimeters that must be modified, since this frame of vision is very square while the screens in the cinemas are rectangular.
The iMAX format is generated in 70 millimeters, that is to say, approximately twice the resolution.
In these cases, there is no compression of the frame or projector expansion to fill the screen. The format 15/70 handled by iMAX eliminates this inconvenience.
For this reason, with such heavy and large tapes, the iMAX projectors works completely different, starting with its horizontal instead of vertical movement.
Consequently, the demands of the screens have led the producers to create different versions of their films, with differentiating characteristics that allow meeting the iMAX resolution requirements.
Consequently, there are not so many films that can be enjoyed under these technological conceptions, compared to those confined to standard screens.
Also, these settings on the already-recorded tapes do not match the experience generated by an iMAX camera. This is how the incorporation of these tools in the filming of various movies has been promoted.
This generates certain disadvantages to producers, starting with the great weight of the equipment and how expensive it is.
Realities regarding the digital iMAX screen
Although its superiority in resolution — even in its digital version — is undoubted, the main attraction that kept many users linked to the iMAX projections (despite the much higher cost that they had to pay for) was the exclusive experience provided by the traditional iMAX tape.
Originally, the proposed format was of 65 m., that is to say, the highest resolution film format in the world. The theaters were similarly designed so that the viewer will enjoy these types of movies.
But, faced with such a high cost and difficult-to-use material (hundreds of kilograms of film to project an hour of film), the format alternatives had to be diversified.
Digitization completely changed this distinctive feature of the company. With its appearance some of the big gaps between the iMAX format and the standard have been shortened.
Despite this, the iMAX projections continue to receive positive reviews regarding the resolution, aesthetics and design of its rooms, among others.
iMAX recording equipment Vs. Equipment of other brands
Returning to the previous point, iMAX equipment leads the list of quality products for film recording.
However, stop using standard equipment during the filming of a movie is very complex, since iMAX equipment is not only much more expensive, but also cumbersome when is used.
Remastering has become the loophole for film production companies.
They make all the adjustments that can be considered relevant so that the quality of the film goes hand in hand with the high standards managed in iMAX rooms.
iMAX sound Vs. standard sound
As with the size of the screen, it is known that iMAX sound is superior to other sound systems used in theaters. In fact, during the remastering of some cinema pieces, the re-recording of dialogues by the actors has been necessary.
However, this is not an indicator of higher quality. Even those with 12-channel sound systems (although in most iMAX theaters a six-channel sound is used) are less sophisticated than some others, such as Dolby Atmos and which result in a more accurate placing of the sound.
Consequently, the sound of iMAX can be more immersive and clear, but this is relative and depends on the characteristics of each room.
In general, users recognize iMAX sound as superior because it is more enveloping.
One of the differentiating features of iMAX compared to traditional rooms is the lack of a consistent criteria for the size of their screens, the characteristics of their sound objects, among others.
This means that an IMAX room can vary substantially from another homologous IMAX room and therefore, perception could vary.
iMAX Theater Vs. Standard Theater
All the previously mentioned characteristics and elements converge in the theater. Undoubtedly, the configuration of these rooms are different, since iMAX focuses on filling the viewer’s field of vision.
This is not perceptible only on the screen; the slightly steep layout of the seats aims to generate a sense of approach to the image that is reproduced in front of the viewer.
The iMAX theaters, in general, are renowned for their careful aesthetics. All the elements present there are assembled in such a way that the field of vision of the spectator is favored.
This is its most striking feature in front of conventional rooms, and users can feel a great change in their experience simply because of this.
iMAX 3D Vs. Conventional 3D
The iMAX 3D technology has been developed under the same principle that gave way to its digitalization: the incorporation of two projectors generating images that converge.
In this case, 3D technology simulates the nature of the human eye, and each projector makes the function of one of them.
The approach of 3D images to the public depends exclusively on the construction of a triangle of vision that is quite narrow in the conventional rooms, since the range of vision of the user is much smaller.
This particularity increases the director’s possibilities of bringing elements closer to the audience.
While the traditional 3D is limited to small and well-differentiated elements (like swords), in 3D iMAX quite large elements can be perceived outside the screen.
Final takeaway experience
Finding a movie in different formats diversifies the way in which movies can be enjoyed.
Both the format proposed by iMAX and the traditional format offer their advantages and disadvantages, and will be appropriate according to the characteristics of the film itself and the needs of the viewer.
The characteristics of the film are a very important factor in the comparative process.
In some films, their director or producer wants the viewer to enjoy certain details that are only possible with certain resolution or sound quality. The viewer’s experience can change completely only because of these slight modifications.
iMAX is not limited to an increase in the field of vision from a higher resolution in the tapes. The company’s work involves improvements in a field of vision and sound that make the user experience much more immersive.
However, given these limiting characteristics, the spaces available to enjoy this experience are fewer.
From these comparison parameters, positive and negative characteristics of both formats can be identified, and from there, also deduce which could be the most appropriate.
In spite of this, the value of individual experience in these evaluations cannot be ignored: the best way to make a relevant comparison is through experimentation with both proposals.