IMAX next-gen laser projectors to arrive this year, more affordable home cinema in 2015

IMAX is still the world's best pioneer for cinema advancements. It recently announced the world's first fully integrated 65mm 4K digital large-format 3D camera. And it's got plenty more to come including higher frame rates, next-gen laser projectors and more affordable home cinema systems.

We caught up with IMAX CEO, Greg Foster and senior VP of film production, Hugh Murray to find out more.

IMAX previously talked about laser projectors and cameras that could film and display, essentially, neon colours. How is that technology progressing and when do you see laser projected neons in the UK?

GREG: We expect to launch our first next-generation laser projection system at the end of 2014 with further roll out taking place in 2015. We have already signed more than 60 laser deals spanning North America, Europe, China, Australia and the Middle East. Two UK sites that have already signed on include the Empire Leicester Square and the Glasgow Science Centre.

It's been over a year since you started installing home systems. Any plans to offer lower price set-ups for homes? Or will they always be hooked into the IMAX management system requiring the high-end costs?

GREG: Since our last conversation we have made some further movements in the home theatre market, including an agreement with Prima Cinema to offer IMAX enhanced current theatrical releases to our home systems as well as a partnership with TCL to develop a broader premium home theatre offering. While the new system will still be targeting high net worth individuals, the price point will be lower and the system will not require as stringent room requirements as the IMAX Private Theatre. We expect to launch the new system in China and select other global markets in 2015.

In what way is the new IMAX 3D camera better than other, current cameras?

HUGH: One of the benefits of this camera is that it does not require a 3D beam splitter rig, which is required for other 3D camera systems. This significantly reduces the weight of the camera to less than half the weight of other 3D digital camera systems on the market. It will provide filmmakers such as Michael Bay with versatility that only 2D digital cameras have been able to deliver in the past. In Transformers: Age of Extinction for example, the production team was able to capture chase scenes and helicopter shots in high-resolution 3D in a way that previously impossible.

Mirror rig systems also tend to act as dust magnets, particular for chase sequences. Our camera will not require the constant cleaning between takes and eliminates the risk of dust or dirt ruining the shot.

Rig systems consist of two separate cameras to capture the right eye and left eye image. In order to get the best 3D shot, you need to constantly ensure that the cameras are in exact alignment. This can be quite a time consuming process on set if the lenses fall out of alignment or a lens change is required. In addition to being an integrated system, our cameras come with fully interchangeable lenses that can snap on and off as a stereo pair so alignment is no longer necessary.

Any future plans to hold IMAX live events? Perhaps sports using the 3D cameras?

GREG: We are always looking into new business and technology opportunities. We haven’t announced anything at this time but the advancements in digital and streaming technologies are certainly starting to make this a real possibility. We will make sure that whatever we are involved in has the quality standards that IMAX has become known for.

3D and 4K seem to be taking off. High frame rate is the next grower, what are the future plans for this technology at IMAX?

HUGH: We are format agnostic at IMAX – so for us it is really about providing filmmakers with the best possible technology to help them achieve their creative vision. While we think it is still unclear what the future holds for High Frame Rate, we are building HFR capabilities into all of our future camera and projection technology.

Netflix Originals have proven very popular. Any plans to create films with big blockbuster actors and writers for IMAX only?

GREG: One of the best things about IMAX is that nothing is off limits.  At this point, we think we would need to have a bit of a larger global theatre network in order to make it financially viable for studio.  That being said, we have seen rapid growth over the past few years – particularly in international markets, and continue to focus on growing our footprint. We are already seeing interest from filmmakers and studios to leverage IMAX to do something special and unique – whether that is opening their film early in IMAX theatre or shooting with our high-resolution cameras. The idea is certainly very exciting so stay tuned.



>