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What you need to know about new IMAX with Laser


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Film nerds rejoice: the new 4K IMAX with Laser projection system is now in place at the Empire Leicester Square.

To celebrate, we attended a demonstration of the new technology and spoke to Brian Bonnick Chief Technology Officer at IMAX and Andrew Cripps, IMAX’s President of Europe, Middle East and Africa.

"We are raising the benchmark once again with the launch of IMAX with laser at Empire Leicester Square – providing film fans in the West End a cinemagoing experience unlike anything they’ve ever seen or heard before," Andrew Cripps has said amidst the technical details supplied to us about the wonders of this new technology.

"We couldn’t be more excited to mark the European debut of this new laser technology at such an iconic venue – particularly with the strong upcoming slate of films, like The Walk, Crimson Peak, Spectre and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that demand to be seen in this new format."

They went on to talk us through some of the amazing changes this means for film viewing at one of London’s most iconic locations.

Contrast is key

Contrast (the difference between the whitest white and the blackest black) is an integral part of making a movie look great on the screen (sadly, as many film-lovers know, this is something many regular cinemas get horribly wrong). IMAX has always done its best to offer viewers the best contrast range, but now screens with their Laser projectors will reach contrast levels much higher than ever before. This means more detail.

The brightness is better

A laser light source provides greater brightness than previous models have been capable of, and will allow IMAX to offer viewers much sharper, clearer images.

This means great things for 3D

Yes, the growth and now decline of 3D cinema has a been a torturous experience, with audiences made to pay ridiculous ticket prices for a gimmicky money-making schemes that caused drastic brightness loss. But now studios are getting over their 3D obsession, there are some filmmakers who are using it as is should be used: as a form of artistic expression. And for those filmmakers and audiences who chose to view the content, IMAX with Laser solves the brightness issue. At last, you can now watch a 3D movie without the atrocious dimming effect, providing you see it in their IMAX Leicester Square cinema.

Colours are expanded

This new projection technology will allow filmmakers to use an expand amount of colours by providing a wider gamut of colours and a more vivid  image. Audiences will get to experience colours that have never been seen on screen when new film projects start to take advantage of the potentials IMAX with Laser projection offers.

What movies should be seen in IMAX?

IMAX has traditionally been about showing big, lush documentaries and action blockbusters likes the Transformers franchise. In recent years, they have diversified, though there are still a few things they don’t usually do.

"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," says Andrew Cripps. "I think what IMAX does is enhance that movie going experience for an action adventure, sci-fi or fantasy movie. I think it takes the customer somewhere that they can’t otherwise go.

"There are certain genres of movies that we do extremely well. I think documentaries are really good. 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."

Earlier this year, however, they chose to remaster Fifty Shades of Grey for IMAX presentation in some territories, a choice that provoked ‘a lot of debate’ at their headquarters, and they’re still not sure if they’ll be doing the sequel. Watch out. You may be getting more Jamie Dornan than you bargained for.

How do they guarantee IMAX screenings will always be such high quality?

Quite often, digital cinemas these days are...well...atrocious. The projectors are set to a low brightness level, the contrast is appalling and quite often underpaid and badly trained teenagers have replaced experienced projectionists (who have all been made redundant because cinema chains see them as sooooo yesterday).

IMAX won’t let any of these trends affect their quality presentations. But how do they do it? Why is it perfect every time when other cinemas get it wrong every day? Brian Bonnick, IMAX’s Chief Technology Officer, has the solution: "We have a very involved training programme, both online and on-site training. When you used to have film-based projection, the projectionists were experts at their craft – it really was a skill-set – but with digital projectors today, you basically have to click a start button so they’ve trained high-school students to do it.

"So recognising that, with our camera and microphones at the rear of the theatre, we are setting it up every single day by having an on-focused lens. Our decision was let’s not rely on a person doing it, let’s have that camera to adjust the focus of the lens." With brightness loss, often caused by lamp degradation, they now have a notification system that comes up telling the cinema to change the lens, and if they don’t, IMAX get notified to tell them the people running their screen have failed to change the lamp and the light level is falling.

"We will make a phone call to the client to say ‘change the lamp’; that often solves it, occasionally we have to send someone out on our buck to do it and work out who’s paying for it later. It’s all this automation we’ve put in that’s part of the feedback loop. We’ve kind of pulled the human out of it. That’s why it’s a good question as it directly affects your experience of the movie. Our reputation’s on the line."

The Walk is showing in IMAX with Laser at the Empire Leicester Square. IMAX films this Autumn/Christmas season also include Crimson Peak, Spectre, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and In the Heart of the Sea. Watch a video about IMAX with Laser technology below:



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