hey there y’all,

okay, today I’m going to rant a bit about IMAX, but first things first. I love the theatrical experience. I love 3D and I love when theaters provide an experience that is different and more immersive that what can be experienced at home. heck, I’d rather see a movie with a crowd of strangers in a theatre than with a crowd of friends in someone’s living room. cinema was meant to be seen in a CINEMA.

what I don’t like however, is when screening format trumps the filmmakers intent. filmmaking is (or at least should be) a very intentional process. there’s not a lot that is left to chance. so if a particular technique is used – I’d like to believe it was part of the overall design.

let’s talk really briefly about aspect ratios. which are really just the technical term for a film’s “width vs. height.” normally it’s expressed with a decimal like 2.35, 1.85, or 1.33. 2.35 is cinemascope, 1.85 is normal widescreen, and 1.33 is the dimension used on the old Standard Definition televisions. compare to each other they look something like this:

aspect ratio

enter IMAX. originally IMAX was almost exclusively a format for nature documentaries. it made sense to use it in this way. I remember viewing films like ALASKA and EVEREST with wonder and awe. the image was SO big and so crisp. it made an experience that was visceral.

it wasn’t until 2000 that films began to be RE-MASTERED for imax. yes, they were being changed in order to be screened on the format. part of it was an actual physical change that needed to run through different projectors and part was changing the aspect ratio.

recently, there have been a few films (THE DARK KNIGHT being the most famous) that have actually shot some scenes in the imax format – but the rest are being modified.

remember that old warning that would come up on VHS copies of films?

This film has been modified from its original version. it has been formatted to fit your screen.

that meant the film you had just rented had been CROPPED from the 2.35 or 1.85 aspect ratio that the filmmaker INTENDED and was shown at the cinema to the 1.33 aspect ratio that would fit inside of your tv at home.

well guess what? this is EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH IMAX!!!

“I feel like I’m taking Crazy Pills!”

but seriously, take a look at this still from a movie we’ve probably all seen and notice how much LESS of the frame you’d have seen in IMAX.

imax crop

doesn’t that seem wrong to anyone else? IT’S BARELY MORE THAN STANDARD DEF TELEVISION!!!

I’m definitely for innovation, but not at the expense of filmmaker intention. IMAX is an interesting format, I just don’t like being sold the “bigger is better” bill of goods.


p.s. read more about IMAX and its history here.

1 Comment
  • Matthew
    Posted at 21:43h, 15 June Reply

    and then there’s the difference between the older, “huge” IMAX screens that were so awesome, and the newer IMAX screens at your local multiplex that are just slightly larger than a regular movie screen … but still charge $2-4 more.

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