The Digital and Deflated Imax Experience

Regular readers may remember my enthusiastic response to The Dark Knight in Imax. I called it “the best way to present the most spectacular of Hollywood entertainments.”

After seeing Star Trek in digital Imax at AMC’s Emery Bay multiplex last night, I have to amend that. Real, film-based Imax, in a real Imax theater,  is the best way to present the most spectacular of Hollywood entertainments. Digital Imax is a rip-off. (I’ll post a review of the film soon.)

Not that it’s a bad way to present a big movie. It looked at least as good–and maybe better–than a pristine, well-projected 35mm print. But it wasn’t Imax. (One could argue that any film shot in 35mm, even if blown up and printed in Imax, isn’t true Imax, but it goes beyond that.)

Let’s start with the theater: The Emery Bay does not have anything that a reasonable person would describe has an Imax screen. Their screens are all quite large, and like an Imax screen they’re fixed width. (Translation: Non-scope, 1.85×1 films fill the entire screen, and scope, 2.35×1 films fill the full width but not the height.) But they’re not as tall as Imax screens, and not really as wide, either.

And then there’s the projection: I’ve had a hard time finding reliable specs on their projection, but according to Wikipedia, uses two 2K DLP projectors projecting the full image one on top of the other, “producing an image that is potentially of a slightly higher resolution than common 2K digital cinema.” (Imax apparently considered using two Sony 4K projectors, but changed its corporate mind along the way.) I see no reason to believe this is inaccurate. A glance at the back of the theater told me that two projectors were both sending out light in the right aspect ratio. And there was a DLP credit.

I will say that this was the best digital projection I’ve seen, including my one experience with 4K projection (which was, admittedly, with Crusing, an intentionally gritty-looking film). But it wasn’t Imax.

By the way, the credits named a lab (I forget which) for making 70mm prints. I haven’t heard of any of these showing anywhere.

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