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Jeff L'Heureux

IMAX laser projection

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I recently received the below response from the Pacific Science Center in Seattle with regards to my question as to why they removed their 15/70 Imax film projector in favor of a digital system. What do you guys think about this new Imax laser projection? Has anyone seen it?


Dear Jeff,

First, thanks for traveling all the way from Vancouver, B.C. to see Interstellar at Pacific Science Center. We value people like you who care about quality, and we appreciate you sharing your concerns.

I, too, am a fan of film and saw Intersteller several times in our theater. Recently, I saw some Interstellar "footage" projected with our new laser digital system. I found it more stunning than in film, particularly in the space shots, because of the blacker blacks.

For a long time, we waited to convert to digital because there was no digital system that could provide an image of quality comparable to 15/70 film projection. But IMAX just rebuilt its projection system from the ground up and custom designed it for IMAX's largest screens. There are only four of these projection systems now in use in the world — that is how new they are — the most advanced cinema technology currently available. Our new IMAX with laser surpasses the image quality of our prior projection system in these ways specifically:

• The image is now brighter
• The contrast levels are substantially higher than with film: blacker blacks and whiter whites
• Wider color gamut
• It also boasts a new, custom-designed immersive 12-channel sound system

Please do not confuse our new IMAX with laser system with the "Lie-max" theaters to which you refer. Our aspect ratio is 1.43:1 — that is it is taller for width of the screen than traditional cinemas. The screens you refer to as "Lie-max" are not of that aspect ratio. And they do not have this new projection system.

Last week, we opened our first feature film with the 12-channel audio that is available only for the IMAX with laser system: Avengers: Age of Ultron. I invite you to take the new system for a test ride.


Warm regards.

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Interesting, though I would argue 4k source digital cinema is nowhere near the resolution of 15/70. If IMAX figures out a way to finish and distribute in 8k, then we'll start talking. The system is ready for it, but the sources are still 4k.


I haven't seen the laser projection yet, it's extremely expensive, so very few theater owners have installed it. I'm personally a bit upset IMAX has made this decision because they will force theaters to upgrade eventually, which will mark the end of standard theatrical film projection.

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With dual 4K projectors, it is closer to 8K then 4. But I agree it still doesn't have the rez of IMAX film. I wonder why IMAX didn't go for 8K dual projectors, as 8K has been in the system for a few years now. That said all the IMAX theaters in BC Canada all have digital projection now, which I'm not happy about. Last film I saw on film IMAX was 2012 with Dark Knight Rises. I had no idea that would be my last time to see true IMAX. I wonder when the theaters in BC will upgrade, but probably not anytime soon, because they just converted a few years ago. I know some IMAX theaters use a rail system to slide out the digital projectors and move the film one in place. I don't know why they couldn't do that here in BC. I wonder how long it will take for IMAX to install 8K laser projectors, assuming they are even thinking of going that direction?

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True Tyler, but I wonder if their computer system uprez's the video to 8K before projection? Only IMAX would know the answer to that. But yes it will still be a 4K rez looking picture. I wonder if IMAX projected movies will be mastered at 8K down the road when more of the laser projectors get installed?

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I had some long/extensive conversations about these projection systems and IMAX has zero intentions on setting up anything else but 4k distribution. The current workflow is 6k, but distribution is only 4k.


I was told the projectors are 1.5 million dollars.

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