Never mind the hype, is Digital IMAX any good?
4th Dec 2008 | 14:31
TechRadar watches the Watchmen (trailer) in Greenwich
TechRadar was present at the launch of Digital IMAX in Europe, as Greenwich's Odeon cinema showed off the technology that is sweeping across the world's picture houses.
Digital IMAX is, as you may have gathered, a digital version of the already established IMAX technology, which is easier to implement and can be built in many existing cinemas.
Obviously, the hope is that the enhanced experience will bring a resurgence for cinemas as they battle against big screen televisions and high definition media like Blu-ray.
But is it any good?
IMAX Executive Vice President Larry O'Reilly introduced a show reel of some of the best IMAX material including trailers from past and present films, an animated 3D short and a few clips.
The digital films in the selection really shone – with the highlight being the widely circulated trailer for Watchmen – one of next year's most eagerly awaited movies.
The visuals are simply stunning – the big screen and the ratio draw you into the action, and although you could perhaps suggest that some of the detail around the outside is lost because you are forced to focus your attention on one part of the screen it works to draw you in.
But it is the sound as much as anything that impresses. The IMAX sound system is hand assembled for each cinema with the speakers 'laser-positioned' in the hope that the sweet spot for the sound can be extended beyond the range of rival systems.
There was much talk about subtle sounds being accurately represented, but as you can imagine it was the big booming noises that really shook things up – quite literally in fact as the bass vibrated through the chairs.
Lest you imagine that it is only digital films that are going to shine on the Digital IMAX, a song from the Rolling Stones concert was boomed out as well. And, if you'll excuse the cheese, even though Mick Jagger didn't get any satisfaction, those in the audience certainly did.
The third dimension
The 3D promotion was everything you would expect, the cheaper 3D glasses are okay and the picture sharp, although Dolby's rival 3D technology certainly gives it a run for its money.
As with most things 3D, there is that horrible tendency to try to focus on the wrong bit to force it flat which can be headache inducing, as can Madagascar 2's colours, but as your mind lets it go and it washes over you things improve.
There's a lot to be said for the implementation of next generation viewing in cinemas. It's not gone unnoticed that people are choosing to curl up in front of their plasma screens with the DVD rather than forking out on expensive cinema tickets.
But if the viewing experience is something that you cannot replicate at home then the few extra quid you will fork out on Digital IMAX films (and the adult weekend tickets will be priced at a not inconsiderable £11.50) begins to look a little more justifiable.
In truth it will be the likes of Watchmen, and of course James Cameron's long-awaited Avatar, that truly test if IMAX is the jolt that modern cinemas need.
As experiences go, however, it would take a pretty special bit of home cinema kit to even begin to approach the visceral viewing experience of the Digital IMAX.