Now that you’ve been formally introduced to our DMR technology, (if you haven’t, please click here to catch up) we’d like to dive a bit deeper into what happens behind the scenes during this transformative process.
As we’ve mentioned in other posts, your experience in an IMAX theatre is entirely different from any other theatre. One of the key reasons is because the content being shown in an IMAX theatre is significantly better than the content playing down the hall.
Want to know how it’s really done? Below we discuss the step-by-step process:
Let’s start with the picture. The IMAX screen isn’t simply larger (spanning from wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling), it’s also positioned closer to the audience - filling your peripheral view and making you feel like you’re a part of the action. This also means, however, that the quality of the content we project has to be that much greater (or else it would be like sitting up really close to your brand new 60 inch 1080p LCD TV while it is playing standard cable at 480p…now instead of 60 inches, imagine IMAX!).
In order to provide you with those crystal-clear, lifelike images you see each time you visit an IMAX theatre, our DMR artists commit countless hours working with the filmmakers and technical teams of each film to deliver the best possible image.
The IMAX DMR team starts by scanning, at the highest resolution possible, each individual frame of the 35mm film and converting them into digital images. If the images were originally captured digitally, IMAX acquires the highest resolution source material.
Next, we analyze the useful information contained within the original source material using our proprietary image enhancement tools, developed and refined over many years, to optimize each scene for IMAX presentation. Some of the techniques used to enhance the digital image include detail enhancement and digital artifact removal, and our projectors add increased brightness and contrast.
This is an extremely collaborative process and you will often find the director and technical teams of each film in our Santa Monica DMR facility reviewing and providing input on the results. While our overall objective is to deliver the best possible image, we are extremely dedicated to ensuring that we help the filmmaker achieve their creative vision.
Once we’ve received sign off from the filmmaker, the enhanced digital signal is then recorded onto either 15/70 film or an IMAX DCP (digital cinema package) resulting in a visual presentation which, when projected through IMAX’s state-of-the-art projection systems, is brighter, crisper, steady and absolutely stunning.
The same goes for sound. The standard soundtrack of a film is created for various types and sizes of theatres (large, small, drive-ins, etc.) and has to work with different types of sound equipment. In order to accommodate all of this, the final soundtrack has to be compatible with the lowest common denominator (i.e. you don’t get the best quality sound possible). Since we have complete control over the design and technology sitting in our theatres, we can work the filmmaker to create a unique and optimized soundtrack for IMAX.
For IMAX DMR releases, our dedicated sound team goes back to the “stems” – which are the original tracks from the movie shoot – and remixes them to recapture their full dynamic range, taking advantage of the higher power of sound in an IMAX theatre and the greater range (higher highs and lower lows) of IMAX’s sound systems.
This allows for the creation of a soundtrack that’s not just crisper and brighter, but also more attuned to the emotional demands of the story on screen. Its part of the reason you feel every bone-chilling moment of your favorite movies. Check out our Rock of Ages post highlighting IMAX audio.
One more thing is important for both kinds of re-mastering. With ordinary films, when the director sees the final cut, that’s practically the only time anyone sees it. Once it’s out in distribution, the prints get scratched, the sprockets stretch, the projector gate shifts, the focus turns soft and the experience inevitably changes and deteriorates.
Another part of what directors like about IMAX is our consistency and commitment to quality. That comes from our locked-in digital masters and projection systems and the uniformity of our theatres (there’s a computer-based process that regularly recalibrates the image and sound in every theatre). That means the original IMAX movie the director signed off on is the same IMAX movie the public sees – every showing, every day, in every IMAX theatre around the world.
Check back for more DMR and IMAX tech information in our IMAX 101 blogposts.
Catch up on our past IMAX 101 posts: