The future is now for better digital projection, as IMAX and Dolby played laser tag on Wednesday.
IMAX touted its $60 million, dual 4K system for greater image and sound at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, where “Furious 7” is currently benefiting from the tech uplift. Meanwhile, Dolby announced its rival 4K projection system called Dolby Vision, which will roll out this summer with Disney’s “Tomorrowland” (May 22) and Pixar’s “Inside Out.” (June 19). (Disney’s “Jungle Book” will be the third release on April 15, 2016.)
Dolby Vision uses state-of-the-art optics and image processing to deliver high dynamic range with enhanced color technology and a contrast ratio greater than current digital projection systems.
However, IMAX remains unrivaled when it comes to large-format exhibition, which was evident during its impressive presentation. Ironically, Bird’s “Tomorrowland” and “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” were among the standouts (which also included clips and trailers from “Furious 7,” the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” teaser, “Interstellar” and “How to Train Your Dragon 2”). It was as if a veil had been lifted with blacker blacks, whiter whites and extraordinary sharpness and contrast for a more visceral experience (see the featurette below).
You notice so much more — from the stubble on George Clooney’s face to the sweat on Tom Cruise’s to the star field accompanying the “Star Wars” logo to the leathery skin on Toothless. Color saturation is more intense in “Tomorrowland,” greater contrast allows Matthew McConaughey’s truck in “Interstellar” to still be discernible as it falls off in the distance. What’s more, there’s no fall off in brightness when watching 3-D.
That’s because IMAX has completely redesigned the industry-standard projection paradigm with a new optical engine and suite of proprietary tech capable of projecting an image without any aspect ratio limitations. Thus, there are no more barriers for IMAX, which can now offer a 50% increase in brightness, a much wider color gamut and higher dynamic range (with twice the contrast of film).
That means no more xenon bulbs (which weren’t bright enough) and no more prisms (which had optical limitations along with longevity issues).
As far as sound, the Chinese doubled its sound channels to 12 for more immersive, base-thumping ear candy that represents IMAX’s answer to Atmos.
For IMAX, it no longer has to play with one hand tied behind its back, fully illuminating the entire screen area (the Chinese is 94 ft. x 46 ft.), and able to play more tentpoles on a greater number of its large screen venues. (There will be more than a dozen IMAX theaters fitted for laser in time for the December 18th release of “The Force Awakens,” including the one at Universal City Walk.)
This laser game-changer is obviously going to make 2015 a banner year for theatrical moviegoing with summer around the corner, “The Force Awakens” on the horizon and the box office already gaining momentum after last year’s disappointing results.