film reviews | movies | features | BRWC IS IMAX WITH LASER WORTH YOUR POPCORN MONEY?

BRWC attended the IMAX With Laser launch at The Empire Leicester Square on 1 October, which is the first cinema in Europe to have IMAX with laser. This is billed as the future of movie technology and will give audiences an unparalleled immersive experience. IMAX with laser is the pinnacle of what IMAX has been striving for since its creation in 1974. It is designed for IMAX’s largest screens of 75 feet or greater width and it was launched at the IMAX at Empire Leicester Square with a screen of 87 width.

Four components make this the cinema experience even better: brightness, contrast; colour and sound.
Here’s the technical details for those that get excited by such things. It has a dual 4k laser projection system equipped with a new optical engine and suite of proprietary IMAX technologies capable of projecting an image with 1.43:1 aspect ratio. What does that mean to technical luddites (I throw myself in there) the colour is sharper, the sound is felt and heard that all adds up to a totally immersive experience. The audio system is upgraded from 5.0 to 12.0 and if any of you caught Ant Man or Everest currently in IMAX with laser cinemas you will have no doubt been blown away by the sound quality.

What does $60 million and 5 years investment get you well sharpness, quality and a feast for the eyes and ears. Brian J. Bonnick walked us through the visuals and the evolution from 2D to 3D and the why they had to upgrade the use of the TRI prism to an open frame design and also the material that the film is projected onto in an IMAX cinema – yes every single detail is considered. However, all that is wasted if the seating is not right and not all blacks are the same we learnt. At The Empire Leicester Square – the room is totally black when the lights are turned down to show the screenings. Quality control is important and every morning the laser ensures that everything is aligned.

BRWC was lucky enough to sit down at a round table discussion and ask a few questions of Andrew Cripps – President EMEA IMAX Corporation and Brian J.Bonnick – Chief Technology Officer.

My first question of Brian was why do some people get tired eyes watching 3D films as I know I do. Whereas watching The Walk and all through the presentations I didn’t suffer from any eye strain.

“So there are two types of 3D. There’s 3D and then there’s IMAX 3D.[There’s] 3 components [that come into play]: is you, your brain, and we each respond to 3D much differently. Some people are much more susceptible. The second is how the projector is set up because you’re taking two images and trying to converge them on a screen so if the projector is not aligning them properly [will cause strain] and most of the larger screens: IMAX and otherwise they are using dual projectors. Ours [IMAX] calibration system every day checks to make sure they are aligned so that stops the degradation of the image. The last part of it is how the filmmaker captured it all the way through to post [post production] so if the images are aligned so it wants your eyeballs to look outward you get strained very quickly. The hardware side is taken care of it by our calibration in IMAX if you are prone to it as versus [other cinemas].

I asked Brian whether there is such a thing as a bad seat at an IMAX cinema given I sat at the very front for the presentation and one row from the back for the screening of The Walk and had two different experiences.

“I think in all honesty in any theater you go to a lot is dependant on your own eye perception. Most theaters you don’t want to sit in the very back row or the very front row. Nobody can create a theater with one seat. In IMAX you have a broader range of seats in which you can sit. In IMAX theaters because of the screen design you can broaden that if you sit off centre in any theater you don’t want to sit in the corner [from sound experience point of view].

For Andrew, I asked: whether he thought all films are suitable for IMAX or is it just the action and documentaries films?
“We do very few dramas, romantic comedies and I think if you are going to pay a premium price as a consumer you want an experience that you are not going to get elsewhere. I think what IMAX does that to enhance that movie going experience for an action/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy movie. I think it takes the customer somewhere that they can’t go otherwise. There are certain genres of movies that we do extremely well. I think documentaries are really good: that Rocky Mountain express always amazes me how beautiful that looks. Those are really good examples of a different type of movie. But typically the movies that we select to do are in those various categories [cited above]. The Walk is a drama at the core but the 3D and special effects are incredible – you feel you are on the wire with him.

Someone added that they thought 50 shades of Grey was an outlier and Andrew added that its selection generated a huge amount of debate at IMAX headquarters.

The Walk is currently showing at The Empire Leicester Square in IMAX with laser and read the review here. As for seeing other films shown in IMAX with laser – I cannot wait to see the new Star Wars movie on that massive screen!

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