Possibly heretical thoughts about IMAX releases

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Jason Seaver, Jul 29, 2004.

  1. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 1997
    Messages:
    9,306
    Likes Received:
    0
    (adapted from the review of Spider-Man 2: The IMAX Experience on blog, since no-one ever leaves comments there)

    What I'm about to say will probably irk a few folks on the HTF (especially remembering the initial furor over the IMAX release of Apollo 13), where the quest to have movies presented in their original aspect ratio rather than a cropped, pan-and-scan version is like a holy crusade (which I strongly endorse), but I must admit it passed through my head both while watching Spidey 2 last night and Harry Potter a week earlier. The IMAX presentation of these movies (like The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions before them) are matted widescreen presentations, in the movie's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. That's a good thing, right? However, I did some math, based upon the stated proportions of the Simons IMAX Screen (65 feet high by 85 feet wide); the actual picture for these "scope" movies is about 36 feet tall. That's certainly bigger than most multiplexes, but not that much bigger than the "Screen Monster" at the AMC Fenway, the largest screen in the Boston area.

    The first of the "IMAX Experience" series was Apollo 13, and there Ron Howard and his cinematographer, in addition to editing the film down to two hours so that it could fit on an IMAX platter (since then, most IMAX theaters have upgraded to larger platters), he and his cinematographer also recomposed the movie to use the entire 1.44:1 IMAX frame; George Lucas did something similar for Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: The IMAX Experience. Some purists raised a stink over this, and apparently the studios have listened and responded. It's worth noting that these films no longer seem to be promoted as "The IMAX Experience", which is probably accurate - they don't really have the grand, immersive effect native IMAX films have, which Howard tried to duplicate by tweaking his film for the different demands and challenges of a giant-screen environment.

    Consider the final scene of Spider-Man 2, where Spidey swings through Manhattan, escorted by a pair of police helicopters. Looks great, as good as or better than it looked on the best 35mm screens. Now, think how amazing it would have been if they had zoomed in, used the whole IMAX canvas, let the city and the speed just completely fill one's field of vision. It would have been utterly jaw-dropping. Considering Raimi reportedly wanted to film at 1.85:1 rather than 2.35:1 anyway, I think he could have been convinced. Of course, the question is if he and Pope could have made an "IMAX Experience" version; they would have had to either been composing for both versions during filming, or been given time to figure out how to fit their footage to a differently-proportioned screen. Given that the Spidey 2 IMAX release seems like sort of an afterthought, neither is likely the case.

    It will be interesting to see how the 35mm and IMAX 3-D versions of Robert Zemeckis's Polar Express compare, as IMAX was apparently a consideration from early on. After watching the last three IMAX DMR blowups, though, I'm starting to wonder what advantage they hold over a top-line 35mm presentation if the filmmakers aren't given some license to make some changes. I've got no issue with Apollo 13 and Apollo 13: The IMAX Experience being slightly different, though closely related, works if it means the tools are used to their fullest.
     
  2. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2000
    Messages:
    4,611
    Likes Received:
    0
    Um...want to put spoilers around that spiderman 2 description? I haven't seen it yet, so I had to stop reading the rest of your post. [​IMG]

    Personally, I find Imax presentations of 35mm movies overrated.
     
  3. Chris Farmer

    Chris Farmer Screenwriter

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2002
    Messages:
    1,495
    Likes Received:
    0
    Don't worry Max, the description isn't a spoiler, unless the knowledge that Spidey doesn't die
    is a spoiler. [​IMG] Basically Spidey-2 ends very similar to the last scene of the first, with an extravaganza sequence of web-slinging that isn't really relevant to the plot.
     
  4. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2001
    Messages:
    4,148
    Likes Received:
    1
    Doesn't true IMAX use a higher frame rate than 24 fps, which cuts down on strobing?
     
  5. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2000
    Messages:
    4,611
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ah ok Chris. [​IMG]

    Ernest: Hmmm good question. If normal theaters use 48 hz, what can Imax possibly use? It can't be 60 hz (3:2 cadence) could it? Hmm...
     
  6. Max Leung

    Max Leung Producer

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2000
    Messages:
    4,611
    Likes Received:
    0
  7. Ernest Rister

    Ernest Rister Producer

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2001
    Messages:
    4,148
    Likes Received:
    1
    My point is, an IMAX presentation of Spider-Man 2 - even if it isn't that much bigger, could *potentially* look better because of the higher frame rate. If the film is printed on an IMAX IP, then it *could* look incredibly clear and film-like...potentially much better than the local Giganto-Rama Cinema Screen.
     
  8. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 1997
    Messages:
    9,306
    Likes Received:
    0
    How do you get the higher frame rate, though? It's one thing to digitally interpolate a higher-resolution picture, but what is the benefit of just showing each frame twice as many times that great (because the expense of doing some sort of automated inbetweening to double the frame count must be horrific)?
     
  9. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2003
    Messages:
    3,034
    Likes Received:
    1
    I don't think they do do any inbetweening work. I suspect they probably just show the same frame twice. End result - the frame is on screen the same length of time as normal, but because it is shown twice, the between frame flicker is much more difficult to detect.

    But someone correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  10. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2000
    Messages:
    8,850
    Likes Received:
    230
    Real Name:
    John
    If a movie is shot at 24 fps, it really can't be made to project any faster without digital work which probably wouldn't actually make a visual improvement to the image anyway.

    Keep in mind that, as far as I have always understood, movie theaters "flash" each frame 3 times. There is a rotary shutter in the projector and it lets light through 3 times for each frame of film. The movie is still 24 fps, but there are 72 flashes per second to pretty much eliminate flicker.

    Remember, the size of the projection film is only one aspect of the quality of Imax films. They are not just 70mm, but horizontal 70mm which means the film has probably about 16 times the area of a 35mm feature film. Add to that the possibility of shooting and projecting at 48 fps (probably flashed twice per frame for 96 flashes per second) and you get the better image. Blowing up a 35mm theatrical film to Imax size will give results which are far from an Imax original.
     
  11. Phil L

    Phil L Supporting Actor

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 1998
    Messages:
    782
    Likes Received:
    0


    I dunno about that...

    I've seen 35mm shot at 48 and 60 fps cut down to run at 24fps, even with 48->24, it just doesn't quite look right. Don't know why.
     
  12. JohnRice

    JohnRice Lead Actor

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2000
    Messages:
    8,850
    Likes Received:
    230
    Real Name:
    John
    Not the same thing. Removing frames will result is a jerky look, sort of like the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan but maybe moreso.
     

Share This Page