How the Big Screen IMAX Experience Just Took a Quantum Leap Forward

 Cinematography, HDR Digital Cinema  Comments Off on How the Big Screen IMAX Experience Just Took a Quantum Leap Forward
May 152015


Only a fraction of the movie fans who spent $187.7 million opening weekend to see Avengers: Age of Ultron saw it as it appeared at Airbus IMAX Theater at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

 What was a big hit elsewhere was a literally huge one here: Six stories high and more than 85 feet wide, it is the first museum in the world to employ the newest laser technology. Its super sharp 4K laser system encased in two perfectly calibrated fridge-sized projectors is enhanced with a new 12 channel sound system with a sub-bass.

The likes of Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk have never been so formidable—or in 3D versions, so bright. The one drawback to 3D has long been that the glasses darkened objects on the screen.

 Technicians from IMAX who worked long hours right up to the Ultron opening demonstrated the next morning how the laser light source betters the old xenon bulb in brightness. “We’re 50 percent brighter than any cinema,” says IMAX executive vice president David Keighley. “That’s one reason you love our images—they seem more real.”

At the same time, the vivid white and colors from the screen are due to the deeper blacks it can also project. To demonstrate the sharpness between the two, Keighley didn’t show a clip from the Avengers hit, but a still black and white checkerboard pattern, whose borders never bled or wavered, yet boasted absolutely sharp lines and corners.

“If you’re a technical geek you should go wow,” he says.

Many did.

“I never thought we’d get that kind of resolution,” says Keighley, who has been involved in the post production of hundreds of IMAX films and has been the president of IMAX’s post production image and quality control subsidiary DKP 70mm Inc. for more than 40 years.

Keeping the black parts of the film absolutely black means filmmakers can alter at will the dimensions of the film’s border, as director Christopher Nolan did in 2008’s The Dark Knight and last year’s Interstellar. Those are two of the very few Hollywood hits made in 70 millimeter size that can play an IMAX screen. But now that the Udvar-Hazy Center has moved to digital projection, the many more popular Hollywood titles made that way can be shown at night, even as the daytime museum favorites such as Journey to SpaceD-Day: NormandyLiving in the Age of Airplanes and Hidden Universe are also further enhanced.

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