Editorial Feature

How IMAX Cinemas Benefit from Lasers

Image Credits: bogdan ionescu/shuttersotck.com

The IMAX cinema has become a staple of indoor entertainment over the last 50 years. With over 1300 locations, people are able to view films on large screens all over the world.

Living in the new age of technology, viewers have grown accustomed to high definition images whether on the big screen or a phone screen. This presents new challenges to large screen cinema’s such as the IMAX, who constantly need to innovate in order to keep up with the current market.

Over the last five decades, IMAX has fought off competitors, such as Dolby’s Laser projection technology and home streaming sites, by constantly reinventing their own technology. Brian Bonnick, IMAX’s Chief Technology Officer, is confident that their cutting-edge technology will easily fend off competition.

Recently, the company’s research and development center, based in Toronto, has developed new single projection laser system. It is known that the IMAX has been using laser systems for many years, specifically the dual laser projection system, however this new technology means that it can provide brighter and clearer images on smaller screens for a fraction of the price.

In contrast to the more traditional xenon projection lamps used in other cinemas, laser light projections allow IMAX to create images that are 60% brighter, more colorful and have better contrast. The new single projection laser system still achieves this but at a lower price for its smaller cinemas. These lasers also require less maintenance than its dual counterpart and still offers a 1:9:1 aspect ratio.

Bonnick explains that the new laser is made from materials that are stronger than steel as well as a nickel-iron alloy called Invar, which is the most thermally stable material known to man. The Invar design is thought to create a steady image due to its efficiency in cooling the three digital micromirror device chips that reduce the amount of optical glass the image must pass through. This means that the laser does not have to be forced through glass prisms like the more conventional projector and provides a crisper image and improved contrast. In fact, IMAX uses these this laser system to increase the detail of the image, measured to a micron and, according to Bonnick, is the only system to be able to create a true black screen.

This laser technology means that the company can offer consumers bright images for 3D movies, which have been notorious for poor contrasts and dull or unnatural coloring, despite the larger price tag.

These laser systems provide IMAX with an unmatched cinematic experience and allows the company to stay viable in a saturated market.

“Our biggest group is fanboys,” Bonnick explained, “and they’ve been ready and willing to pay up for IMAX’s grander theaters. This is the “experience first” generation, after all, where 20-somethings are much more apt to go out for a good meal or hit a club than spend money on possessions or clothing.”

Bonnick explains that their laser technology provides audiences with what they want, a premium experience. He states that IMAX is able to create this, “especially when it comes to its biggest and brightest screens — and the company has also been exploring other experience-based entertainment avenues, such as VR.”


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