Who invented the IMAX and what are its origins?
Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, Robert Kerr, and William C. Shaw are four Canadian filmmakers who founded the IMAX Corporation in 1967. Their goal was to develop a giant screen film format that was the most immersive experience yet.
For the World Show ’67 in Montreal, created a giant multi-screen experience, syncing up to 9 projectors and achieving a milestone.
Since then, the IMAX format has evolved with technology, improving cameras and sound systems, increasing screen sizes and room layout, and even adding 3D on occasion.
Although it is not the only technology that aims to make the cinema experience even greater, it is the most famous. The company continues to dominate the field it created, with more than 1,100 theaters in 69 countries showing films in this format.
How is it different from traditional cinema?
The main difference to the naked eye is the screen and the configuration of the cinema. In IMAX, these screens are much larger and curved to be able to project the film at a higher resolution.
The world’s largest IMAX screen, for example, is located at the Traumapalast Multiplex in Leonberg, Germany and measures 21.03 meters high by 38.16 meters wide. If we count the height of a floor in about 3 meters, we’re talking about it’s as tall as 6 stories.
Another big difference is usually the sound system, which is usually enveloping so that you perceive even the smallest sound detail from the direction in which it arises in the action, contributing to that feeling of being inside it.
In the more technical part, the differences are even more palpable. Projectors are very different from traditional cinema projectors. Technologies such as 4K laser projection have been tested since 2012 and are capable of handling rolls of film that can easily weigh more than 200 kilos, as soon as the projection exceeds two hours in duration.
Similarly, IMAX theaters look more like sports stadiums than movie theaters. That Traumaplast Multiplex that we have told you about is capable of accommodating more than 500 spectators and certain facilities are very different from a traditional cinema. For example, there are some with a dome shape, such as the one in Tijuana or the Hemisfèric of the City of Sciences in Valencia.
Filming of films in IMAX format
As we have mentioned, IMAX is not only a projection technology, but also a film-making technology.
Although there are IMAX cameras of various formats (15mm for example) it is a standard 70mm cameras, twice the traditional 35 mm of the cinema of always. In addition, the sound is planned and recorded also in a different and more complex way.
Christopher Nolan, for example, is a fan of this type of shooting. In addition to Dunkirk, Interstellar or The legend is reborn (third installment of his Batman), he has already shot some images of The dark knight in IMAX.
In addition to him, other directors such as JJ Abrams or Michael Bay have shot in this format, at least part of his films but not all. Technology is expensive and, therefore, an IMAX shooting of certain scenes is alternated with the traditional one, so as not to shoot the budget.
Not only the cinema uses IMAX. Singers like Adele and Rihanna, or NASA astronauts on their missions, have used cameras of this type.
Why can you see movies in IMAX that have not been shot in IMAX?
As you can see, IMAX is a set of technologies and not something unified. There is 3D, spherical dome projection of documentaries and films adapted to this viewing, in some cases they give you headphones for experience …
Within these technologies is also the IMAX DMR (Digital Media Remastering) which consists of using various processes to convert a movie shot in a traditional way into one in IMAX format.
Apollo XIII was the first traditional film remastered in IMAX with this system, in which great care is taken analyzing each scene and using algorithms that help to optimize it as best as possible.
The truth is that, on many occasions, it hits the mark. Even Spielberg himself has confessed that he has been impressed by the conversion of some of his films. For this reason, you can watch traditionally shot movies in your IMAX room.
What are the drawbacks of the format
All we’ve seen so far are advantages that enhance our cinema experience, but the IMAX also has its drawbacks.
The first is the price of the ticket, obviously. IMAX cinema is much more expensive to shoot, convert and project, having to set up special rooms.
Another drawback is the scarce supply of IMAX films. While large studios always try to remaster some of his hits in this format (Eternals, Marvel, or the latest Bond are recent examples), it is too expensive for most movies and you can hardly choose.
How many IMAX rooms are there in Spain
Currently, you can find 4 rooms in operation. Two are in Madrid (Parquesur and Las Rozas), in addition to the Festival Park in Majorca and the Hemisfèric in Valencia that we have already commented.
As a curiosity, in Valencia you will not be able to see the last of Marvel. The dome-shaped room projects documentaries specialized in this type of screenings, almost always focused on a child audience, which try to take advantage of the characteristics of the room and with a duration of about 40 minutes.
Is the IMAX experience worth it?
If a movie that you are really looking forward to seeing comes out in this format and you can go to a cinema of this type, it’s one of those things you have to experience at least once in life.
However, the main limitation is that there are hardly any theaters and movies and there is a small vicious cycle. As there are few films in IMAX it is not very profitable to build many theaters and, as there are not many theaters, it is not very profitable to shoot or remaster in IMAX.
Besides that, the traditional cinema experience also tries to compete with other technologies. In addition to the 3D fiasco, which it is better not to talk about, the screens are getting bigger and some rooms also use surround sound systems with the same objective as the IMAX, that you feel something more inside the story.
As you can see, the IMAX is a spectacular, complex and expensive system, which continues to increase its presence, although it is true that it has not been extended as much as we would like. If you are a movie buff, and you have always wanted to be inside the movie and not just watching it, it is the closest to that you will have.