Wednesday, June 10, 2009

IMAX vs. MinIMAX (Updated)

I was lurking the MichaelBay.com forums and a post from Nelson reminded me of a topic I meant to cover but kept forgetting to do.

With Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen coming to IMAX in just two weeks with full IMAX 70mm CGI effects and 1:1 ratio for some Transformers in select scenes, it seems important to cover that there is now actually two different IMAX screens out there and you might want to check which your theatre has before deciding if paying that extra price for tickets is worth it to you.

IMAX is a 76x97 feet screen while minIMAX (not official name) is 28x58 feet, a 4.5x difference in sizes (left pic). Which size is used depends on the theatre but if your theatre was recently retrofitted to an IMAX screen then chances are it is the smaller one. However, many new theatres are using minIMAX due to reduction in costs that the smaller size and space requirements. After all a real IMAX screen requires a 7-8 story room. Both sizes still use the detailed 70mm image format, the sound is usually the same and for most the visual experience will be about the same.

How can they be the same visual experience? By simply moving the screen closer to you (right image). The result is the optical illusion of a huge screen that takes over your entire visual range.

Theatres do not advertise if they are IMAX or minIMAX so click here to determine which your theatre is. As for whether minIMAX is worth the extra cost, it comes down to personal preference. Only way to find out is to check it out yourself and come to your own conclusions.

Even if you decide minIMAX isn't worth the extra charge, just remember a question you should ask yourself - is the four extra IMAX scenes in Revenge of the Fallen worth that extra price of admission?

The sad fact is minIMAX is probably the future of the format, so your options are probably limited but at least you go into the decision informed rather then feeling tricked. To get more detailed explanation, check out Consumerist and Gizmodo.

Update: It turns out that things are not as simple as two IMAX formats. There are actually three with various screen sizes, aspect ratios and so forth. Below is an explanation from "Boo" about that.
I would like to clarify some of the information in your post as I am a Projection Service technician (not a projectionist, I repair and install all the projection equipment) for one of the nation's largest chains. The difference between IMAX and miniIMAX is not just screen size (the dimensions of which can vary greatly from what you posted; my local screen is 60h x 80w). The projection technology is actually totally different. True IMAX theaters use a proprietary 70mm film that orients the image horizontally on the frame allowing for a film frame that is 4 times larger than 35mm frames. In addition to the projectors use 15,000 watt lamps. The so called miniIMAX theaters are actually Digital IMAX theaters running 2 Christie 2K (meaning the resolution is 2048 x 1080) DLP projectors each using only 6,000 watt lamps. The reason the screens are so much smaller comes down to 2 very important factors, the first is that the digital projectors cannot light screens with the size and distance from the projector of traditional IMAX, the second is that IMAX doesn't want to spend the money to build the huge houses so they are retrofitting existing houses, any retrofit will not be true IMAX.

Now for the most important detail, IMAX film is of a different aspect ratio than traditional 35mm (and by proxy digital) movies. True IMAX is a 1.44:1 aspect ratio where "Flat" 1.85:1 and "Scope" films are 2.39:1. If Bay is pulling a "Dark Knight" then the film will run at 2.39:1 and expand to 1.44:1 for the special IMAX scenes. The digital projectors CANNOT do this and will only expand to 1.85:1. I don't yet know if the Digital IMAX version of the film will have the same content as the 70mm IMAX or if it will be the same as the 35mm print, but it will certainly have been altered to deal with the constraints of digital if it is the same content as the true IMAX print.

Regards,
Boo
For a list of the number of different file formats and explanations click here (thanks Tiezane). As you can see, it can get complicated for the average laymen. My advice remains the same - check it out for yourself to decide if it’s good enough for your extra dollars.

Another update: Click here for another list of IMAX theaters for the US, the ones in green is the real IMAX.

23 comments:

  1. heres a question for you to ponder about, extra fighting scenes might excite you but if you buy tickets to minIMAX your supporting the cheap rip off idea for theater owners, studios, and business folks like P.R.'s and share holders that the minIMAX 20 foot tall is ok so no 80 foot tall screen no 1:1 scale optimus prime. to have true IMAX build in your area call, write, and boycott the minIMAX or go to a true IMAX theater.

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  2. Mike Patton for Mixmaster!

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  3. finally someone who understand me.!

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  4. I saw Star Trek in minIMAX thinking it was a real IMAX screen, and I have to say that I was thoroughly disappointed. It's no where near the same thing. Also, the aspect ratio is different, so I don't know how transformers will look on the smaller screen. A true IMAX screen is more of a square, while the retrofits are rectangular. I have a feeling its going to be projected as a letterbox, as in the sides of the screen are going to be black. I for one am going to real IMAX, especially since its the same price. If you have a full IMAX near you, definitely don't settle for minIMAX.

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  5. Thanks for the post. Bummed that I spent $17 for a LIEMAX screen. :(

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  6. The nearest imax screen to me is at a science center and they're showing Transformers but they have the Omnimax screen or the Imax Dome. Does anyone know if this is better/worse to see Tf in then a regular theater?

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  7. I feel thankful that I will get to see this at the real IMAX theater in the Air & Space Museum that they actually filmed in. Like The Dark Knight, this will be truly amazing.

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  8. NEW CLIP OF WHEELIE!!!!

    http://unterhaltung.t-online.de/c/18/99/86/38/18998638

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  9. There is a third option, as well. The IMAX screen here in Raleigh, NC is 52x70. That makes it 2.25 times the viewable area of a miniIMAX screen, but only 50% of the viewable area of a full IMAX screen. As far as proportions go, keep in mind that a standard 4x3 (your old school, non-widescreen format) is in a 1:1.33 proportion. Full IMAX, as the 4:23 AM poster stated, is in a 1:1.27 ratio, just slightly off from the 4x3. 16x9 (the accepted standard for widescreen) is a 1:1.77 ratio. The miniIMAX screen, per the measurements in the post, has a ratio of 1:2.07. The Raleigh IMAX screen has a ratio of 1:1.346, which is much closer to the true IMAX standard.

    For a complete list of film formats, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_film_formats . YMMV.

    Tiezane

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  10. There is a third option, as well. The IMAX screen here in Raleigh, NC is 52x70. This results in a viewable area approximately 224% larger than the miniIMAX screen size stated above, and 50% smaller than the IMAX standard. In terms of screen ratios, standard definition television is a 4x3 screen ratio, resulting in approximately a 1:1.33 ratio. The 16x9 standard results in a 1:1.77 ratio. The IMAX standard screen is a 1:1.27 ratio, while miniIMAX is a 1:2.07 ratio. The IMAX screen in Raleigh is a 1:1.34 ratio.

    For more info on the various film formats (I never realized there were so many!) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_film_formats

    Tiezane

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  11. ok can someone tell me if they'll drive 90 miles to see it...

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  12. I dont care about the extra fight scenes or larger screen. For the amount my local cinema charges me to see the film i could see it 5 times before it cost the same as seeing it once with imax. Also the Extra fight scenes are not going to be important probably random non important robots otherwise fans will complain if they see the film and it doesnt seem complete.

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  13. NO to minImax. If you want the best experience possible you want to make sure your theatre is digital Imax.

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  14. New never seen before clip of Transformers2 on a German website featuring NEST operations:
    http://www.prosieben.de/kino_dvd/videoplayer/64592/

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  15. custom trailer by yours truly http://www.planetlynxtv.com/2009/06/transformers-2-revenge-of-fallen.html

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  16. Thank you VERY much for the post. I was planning to go to a theater that, upon inspection, turns out to be a LIEMAX theater. The real one is across town, unfortunately, but at least I avoided ruining my TF2 experience!

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  17. Two new clips of TF2..

    Epps and Lennox hunting for demolisher.. 1:00 long .. http://www.prosieben.de/kino_dvd/videoplayer/64592/

    in german

    one with Wheelie here

    http://unterhaltung.t-online.de/c/18/99/86/38/18998638,vv=P5.html

    Both in german but AWESOME

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  18. This sucks! I bought tickets to a mini IMAX. I wish I would of known about this earlier. This was going to be my first IMAX experiance and I'm not going to enjoy it. I wanted this to perfect.
    :(

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  19. i know this is off topic but there's a scene from the film here, wheelie/Megan Fox fighting it's in german unfortunately :(
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHT4c3tN4eg

    hope the link's good, couldn't copy/paste for some reason

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  20. Does anybody know if watching IMAX is like watching HD on your tv. I mean as far as visual quallity goes. I have never been to an IMAX theater but I've heard about it.

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  21. another clip, still in german :(

    nest team in shanghai

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWR-39_8KJY

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  22. Sorry about the double post earlier, guess I got a little confused about the comment system here...

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