8K or IMAX?

English: San Antonio Imax theater at the River...

English: San Antonio Imax theater at the River Center Mall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is only one classic IMAX theater left in the world. You may be thinking,”There are hundreds of IMAX theaters. What are you talking about?” A review of their map and legend reveals that there is only one IMAX theater left that projects IMAX film. The rest are digital projections. At best, they are 4K digital projections. Mostly, however, even films shot in 4K and projected on 4K projectors are only mastered and played back at 2K. That being the case, the IMAX screen you are watching is most likely only playing a 2K image.

In a few weeks, the movie After Earth will be released. It will be one of the first movies displayed in 4K. Having seen 4K projected on a 40′ screen, I will say that moviegoers are in for a treat. However, IMAX theaters will not be the only ones projecting at 4K. Almost every theater playing the movie will have it at 4K.

So if standard movie theaters are projecting the same resolution, why would you pay for the IMAX experience? Some have cited the apparent field of view of the IMAX screen. Some talk about the quality of the audio. While all of these things are true, I am still not convinced.

An audience views a film using 3D glasses

An audience views a film using 3D glasses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was fortunate enough to see The Dark Knight Rises on 15-perf 70mm film. It was, by far, the best cinema going experience of my life. The portions of the movie shot in IMAX film were the highest resolution images I have ever seen. 4K digital projection pales in comparison. IMAX film projection deserves to be replaced by something better: 8K.

At this time, only NHK in Japan has any sort of real 8K display technology. However, their Super Hi-Vision is aimed at the TV market, and not the theater. JVC recently announced a faux-8K projector. It projects two 4K fields at a refresh rate of 120 Hz, therefore appearing to be 8K. IMAX deserves true 8K.

Sony F65 (Photo Courtesy of Sony Professional US)

Currently, there is no noise about 8K projection coming from Sony or Christie. However, Sony’s F65 currently shoots 8K. In fact, using Baselight, a movie shot on the F65 can be finished in 8K. As it stands, the Sony F65 would be the perfect fit for future IMAX 8K releases. Unlike IMAX film cameras, the F65 is light and quite. The cost of shooting RAW on the F65 is also significantly less than buying and processing IMAX film. Having a flagship 8K camera, Sony stands to benefit greatly from 8K projection. As moviegoers, so do we.

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4 responses to “8K or IMAX?”

  1. Adam D. says :

    “Mostly, however, even films shot in 4K and projected on 4K projectors are only mastered and played back at 2K. That being the case, the IMAX screen you are watching is most likely only playing a 2K image.” Why is this?

    • 5th Floor Digital says :

      4K files are much larger than 2K files. That means more money goes into hard drive space and into render times for 4K. Even if render times were only 25% longer, that quickly becomes days or weeks more that a production has to pay VFX houses. 8K would compound the issue. That is why I suggest it as a replacement to shooting IMAX film instead of 35mm film.

  2. 15/70 says :

    Most of the IMAX theaters in museums running documentaries are still using 15/70. The dome theatres will likely be using 15/70 for 3 more years while IMAX develops a laser dome solution. The 2K DLP projectors are more efficient than the 4k projectors providing better light and color… Basically resolution and sharpness isn’t everything. I agree paying extra to see a Hollywood film in IMAX isn’t worth the money. DLP isn’t making an 8k chip and the Sony and similar JVC projectors have heat, light and color problems based on their lcos technology. They will likely need a laser solution with higher brightness and lower heat to cover a traditional IMAX screen without the chip overheating.

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