The discerning cinema-goer may recognise IMAX as the company that’s been pushing the format forward for the last fifty years.
Others may just think of it as the gigantic screen sitting inside Waterloo roundabout.
In truth, it’s an often-overlooked blending of the two. The company was started in the 1960s and developed through the ’70s and produces both cameras and specialised movie theatres. IMAX uses a taller aspect ratio projected onto a giant curving screen. It compliments this with the kind of steep seating you’re more likely to find in a sports venue.
The result is 23% more image and a much more refined sound and overall immersive experience. It took awhile for the idea to catch on but now the biggest Hollywood productions are making the decision to shoot specifically in the IMAX format.
‘It used to be that we would go to them and it felt like we were the kids sitting at the adult’s table,’ explained Brian Bonnick, the chief technology officer (CTO) at IMAX.
‘Now the process is reversed and the filmmakers are all coming to us,’ he told Metro.co.uk.
‘They’ll come when the script is being developed and will enquire about how they can use our technology. To be clear, every filmmaker is different and it’s not our role to define their creatively – we just give them the best tools.’
In the case of Avengers: Endgame it meant directors Joe and Anthony Russo used a special large-format camera called the Alexa 65 to shoot the film. As the name implies, it shoots in 6K resolution even though IMAX laser projectors are only 4K. Through technical wizardry, that extra detail captured by the camera can be used to enhance the picture even further during post-production.
‘Unlike a lot of other systems, IMAX is a cradle-to-grave thing, or an all-encompassing solution and it offers the sharpest images on screen. Our new laser projection system allows us brighter images and we can accommodate a much broader colour gamut,’ Bonnick said.
Only half the work is done by the film studios; the other side is kitting out and maintaining the equipment in the cinemas themselves.
Bonnick explained that IMAX-equipped theatres are designed from the ground-up and include 12 specialist speakers that can deliver huge clarity and sound accuracy. They can drop the sound an entire octave lower than conventional, off-the-shelf speakers which plays well when you have a rocket taking off or a volcano erupting.
Every morning when the system boots up, the quality of the experience is validated through cameras pointing at the screen and microphones trained on the seats. Many issues can be solved remotely but there are also trained service technicians on site to make sure the gear isn’t misbehaving.
IMAX is also partnering with other companies, such as Sony, to put its digital remastering technology into at-home products for cinephiles to have in their living rooms. The recent 85-inch Master Series TV from Sony shows the company is thinking further afield than just the cinema.
That said, Bonnick is confident that we’ll all be going to check out the latest Hollywood blockbusters at the cinema for a long time yet.
‘Cinema is not going to go away,’ he told Metro.co.uk.
‘In fact, I think home tech bodes very well for us because consumers are getting smarter and they’re going to become more discerning.
‘At the end of the day, there’s nothing like the social cinema experience of seeing a movie with other people and IMAX is the best experience for that.’