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Author Topic: 'Avatar' presentation formats
Adrian Winchester
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From: Croydon, London, UK
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 - posted February 17, 2010 01:48 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In my ongoing question to understand the various 'Avatar' presentation formats, I've learnt some more but I'm no less confused. The Barbican confirmed that I saw the film (in 3D) in 2:35:1, so this was definitely an example of a cinema with a wider picture for scope, as mentioned by Robert.

I finally saw it at the London IMAX cinema on Monday night (at 00.20am!). I was assured that it was 70mm film IMAX, although the steadiness and the almost complete lack of specks or any imperfections of any kind made me uncertain while I was watching it. It was impressive and the 3D seemed to have greater depth than the digital version I saw at the Barbican. But not surprisingly it wasn't as sharp as the films made for IMAX cinemas and I felt I'd prefer to be further back, even though I was already about two-thirds of the way back. What really baffled me was that I thought it would be 1.78:1 ratio with part of the height of the screen not used. However, the picture did not seem to fill the entire width either and I don't think the ratio was any wider than 1.6:1, so I'm convinced it was a squarer picture. I wondered if this meant that the sides were cropped, or was I seeing more at the top and the bottom than on any other version? I tried a question to the IMAX Corporation information box and received this reply:

"IMAX films are screened in the aspect ratio chosen by the film’s director. Avatar was not cropped, this is an effect of the aspect ratio chosen."

The above doesn't make much sense to me, so if anyone can explain what was happening, I'd be very grateful!

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Adrian Winchester

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Robert Wales
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 - posted February 17, 2010 04:26 PM      Profile for Robert Wales   Email Robert Wales   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Adrian ;

I have a friend with very good eyes who also went to see Avatar in Imax last week and was convinced he was watching digital because of the complete lack of dust and specks. He even called me to ask what I knew of the situation. I confirmed to him that the venue was in fact running Avatar FROM FILM in 3D, which is a tribute to the quality of the prints and the operator in the booth. ( Multiplex locations with an Imax screen usually have a dedicated projectionist on staff just for Imax, unlike the rest of their screens. ) I can also verify that the aspect ratio is 1:78 as confirmed to me directly from Imax.

Someone also asked if there were actually any Imax locations running Avatar 3D from film and I can confirm that every run of Avatar Imax in Canada is film-based.

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Adrian Winchester
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 - posted February 17, 2010 08:16 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Robert,
Thanks for your response but I'm afraid I'm still baffled, particularly as you mentioned IMAX screens in multiplexes, as everything I've read on the subject of these has given the impression that they are digital and it's only the massive screen IMAX cinemas specifically created for IMAX films that have the film version. Are you certain that multiplex IMAX screens in Canada actually have two projectors screening the Imax-type 70mm film, as I've found no conclusive evidence of any elsewhere?

I suppose the IMAX screen might have given me the illusion that the film was squarer than 1.78:1. The Technical Manager informed me: "James Cameron did many tests in various IMAX cinemas and decided that he did not want the film to fill the screen left to right which is why the image leaves about a meter of screen unused left and right". I presume this only applies to the enormous IMAX screens, though.

[ February 18, 2010, 05:24 AM: Message edited by: Adrian Winchester ]

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Adrian Winchester

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David Park
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 - posted February 21, 2010 07:28 AM      Profile for David Park   Email David Park   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
"So, are some digital projectors bright enough to make a silver screen unecessary, and is it likely that whatever Dolby are offering will catch on? Surely, there's no way that cinemas will be willing to switch from one type of digital 3D to another, bringing out different types of glasses for different films. Or have I misunderstood something?"

When I attended a demonstration of digital 3D films at the Pictureville, National Media Museum this was by Dolby and the normal white drop down screen was used. It was bright enough.
I learnt that there where 3 methods of 3D presntation, the other 2 where usualy bought by cinemas and needed a silver screen.
The Dolby 3D system equipment could use a normal screen.
I suppose if the cinemas buying the other systems then it is a money choice against the Dolby 3D equipment.

The National Media Museum also has an IMAX theatre with the orginal high and wide screen not seen Avatar yet but saw the the Christmas Scrooge in 3D there. There was slight blanks at the sides and large blanks top and bottom, prestation was as usual perfect, and like was said just as fault free as if it were digital but of course I'm sure they use 70mm film horizontal X 2.

For Avatar see this,
http://nationalmediamuseum.blogspot.com/2009/12/avatar-how-we-get-it-on-imax-screen.html

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David

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Jean-Marc Toussaint
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 - posted February 21, 2010 08:26 AM      Profile for Jean-Marc Toussaint   Author's Homepage   Email Jean-Marc Toussaint   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The Dolby 3D system is really the best I've seen so far. RealD is OK but requires a silver screen which means that you can get a serious case of hot spot. I've seen too many cases of malfunctionning active glasses to be on Xpand's side.

The IMAX version of Avatar being shown here is on film...

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The Grindcave Cinema Website

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Adrian Winchester
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 - posted February 21, 2010 07:10 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I suppose the suitability of white sceens with the of the Dolby system must helpto give it a big advantage. Apart from the cost involved in changing the screen, most cinemas would sometimes be screening 2D films on the same screen and I suppose many people would say that white has advantages, particularly if it's quite a wide cinema.

One thing I'm still unsure about - that I'd welcome an informed comment on: do the different digital systems (and glasses) all involve using the same sort of digital download, or does the cinema need to get the Dolby, Real D, etc version?

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Adrian Winchester

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Brad Miller
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 - posted February 22, 2010 01:12 AM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
Different versions for different systems. In the case of Avatar, there were also flat and scope versions.

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David Park
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 - posted March 02, 2010 07:02 AM      Profile for David Park   Email David Park   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
As Avatar gets replaced with Alice in Wonderland this week we got ourselves off to see Avatar last night at the IMAX with the big high screen and using 2 x 70 mm horizontal films.
The picture was the non-wide screen ratio of the IMAX screen (4x3 'ish.) but did not quite fill it, had what looked like a couple of feet blank all round.
I would say just a little dark but that might well have been the setting of the movie. Quiet a good 3D effect think the producer must have refained from putting things in your face all the time which can happen with 3D in the old days.
Yes we enjoyed the movie and the 3D.

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David

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Adrian Winchester
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 - posted March 02, 2010 10:20 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
David,
That's interesting that you thought it looked "4x3 'ish" as that's exactly what I thought when I saw it at the London IMAX. However, I even consulted their Technical Manager who assured me it was 1:1.78. I really can't understand it as I'm usually good at guessing ratios!

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Adrian Winchester

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David Park
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 - posted March 03, 2010 01:15 AM      Profile for David Park   Email David Park   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
When we saw the Christmas film there the Scrooge, Christmas Carol that was 'normal' cinema wide screen ratio, the couple of feet blank at sides but a lot more blank at top and bottom.
There were parts of Avatar on a TV program yesturday and they were cinemascope ratio IE much, much wider, the Imax I saw must be cropped at sides. I would feel happier I'm sure watching the normal cinema ratio, I do not like moving my head up and down to watch a film.

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David

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David Park
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 - posted March 03, 2010 01:22 PM      Profile for David Park   Email David Park   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Noted today that the run of Avatar is going to continue at our local muti-plex but when The Imax theatre, also local to me, ends its 3D presenation and goes to 3D IMAX Alice in Wonderland, the multiplex changes to a 2D presenation of Avatar.
A few days later the multi-plex also runs Alice in Wonderland but not in 3D it is in 2D.
A strange industry is the cinema these days.

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David

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Adrian Winchester
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 - posted March 05, 2010 06:02 AM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
David - just wondered which Imax do you go to?

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Adrian Winchester

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David Park
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 - posted March 05, 2010 01:08 PM      Profile for David Park   Email David Park   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
National Media Museum which you probably know is in Bradford and 5 stories high screen. This was the first IMAX in the UK.

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David

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Bill Brandenstein
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 - posted April 22, 2010 10:06 PM      Profile for Bill Brandenstein   Email Bill Brandenstein   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Went last night to see "How to Train Your Dragon" in Imax 3-D digital, at AMC Burbank 16. Fun fluffy movie, a nice ride for the kids and dog-loving adults. Saw this in 35mm 2-D a couple of days earlier. The comparison is interesting.

Of course, in 35mm it looks like a movie in all the best ways, and one with the impressive visuals you'd expect from this caliber of production. I can't deny that the digital had a higher level of clarity, lacking film grain and having (how do I say this) good "pixel utilization." But that's comparing Imax digital to standard 35mm (which looked really good). Suppose we compare this to film Imax, and I presume that there can't possibly be a comparison left.

One can presume that this AMC house is like most first-run theaters these days: trying to achieve a high-quality presentation in the most attention-getting manner possible while keeping costs low. I'm trying to be sympathetic here -- they're just trying to make money. However, there are a number of things that subtly detracted from the presentation.

1 - sound was a frame or frame+1/2 ahead of the picture
2 - the subwoofer system was not calibrated correctly and was overbearingly loud, as in kick-in-the-chest mode. It wasn't even "good" bass, with the majority concentrated in the upper end of its range. So, for example, the trailer for the new "Karate Kid" gave us an unrelenting pounding.
3 - Although Imax promotes 10 channels of "laser aligned" speaker systems, the sound clarity/detail was less than that of the 35mm presentation. When the room was retrofitted for Imax, the curved screen scaffold was placed a few feet from the wall and the screen speakers relocated onto the new scaffold. However, all the front-area walls are hard, and an acoustic "haze" results from the hash of reflections coming from the untreated surfaces.
4 - I kept wanting to clean my glasses because the picture seemed slightly "foggy." But my glasses were very clean.
5 - The area directly under the screen used to be a seating area. It needs to be painted matte black. In the many rows high enough for the angle to be "just right," the screen reflection on this floor has the annoying habit of only being visible in one eye.
6 - Being really picky: as wonderful as DLP is, I couldn't help but think that the tonal range of film still looks better, particularly in the extremes of bright or dark. But who's to say just what digitally-created content screened digitally should look like?
7 - Being really, really picky: some sort of aliasing or re-sizing artifacts are infrequently visible on sharp light-to-dark transitions, like for example on the edge of a sniny knife/dagger. This gives what should be a smooth line a jagged look.

One can engage in endless debates about digital projection brightness, and I will say that the Imax DLP projectors do an impressive job in this area, but not as bright as I'd like. (It seems just right with the glasses OFF, when it's twice as bright.) And there's no question that the images we saw last night would be blown away by 70mm Imax, not to mention a screen size 2-3x larger. But I have no doubt for most people this would give them the epic thrill that has been the staple of moviegoing for decades.

Ironically, the large room opposite the Imax theater in this facility now boasts something called ETX (Enhanced Theater Experience) with RealD 3D in digital projection, oversized screen, and gazillions of sound channels. Hmmm.... sounds like Imax Digital, yes, under a different brand name? Hey, anything to bring in the crowd, right?

One of the friendly staff mentioned how everything is moving to digital. And how a family member works for one of the local film printing companies.

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David Park
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 - posted April 23, 2010 12:33 AM      Profile for David Park   Email David Park   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Hi Bill, I'm a bit confused here with your talk of digital presentation. I asked one of the experts on Imax at the National Media museum on the confusion between Imax being digital or not. He said all Imax DMR is presented on 70mm film horizontaly and in the case of 3D 2 x 70mm horiz. In special Imax installations or converted cinemas.
3D versions in cinemas are digital.

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David

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Joerg Polzfusz
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 - posted April 23, 2010 03:16 AM      Profile for Joerg Polzfusz   Author's Homepage   Email Joerg Polzfusz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
I'm a bit confused here with your talk of digital presentation.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imax#IMAX_Digital_Theatre_System

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Bill Brandenstein
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 - posted April 23, 2010 10:50 AM      Profile for Bill Brandenstein   Email Bill Brandenstein   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
David, sounds to me like the National Museum is still a "safe" place to see Imax, at least for awhile. Joerg, thank you for the link.

quote:
Wikipedia: IMAX Corporation's decision not to designate the new digital installations in any manner has led to a backlash by some viewers[35] who are disappointed to have paid a premium to view an IMAX presentation only to find it being shown with much lower resolution on a screen of relatively ordinary size.[36] Some reviewers have pointed out that the visual artifacts due to low resolution are detrimental to the picture quality, especially for viewers seated closer to the screen.[29] The company CEO has stated that in digital IMAX installations the first few rows of seats are removed, allowing the screen to be closer to moviegoers, which makes the screen appear larger than it would in a standard theater setting.[37]

That pretty much sums it up. It IS a bigger screen, but AMC's ETX presentation has a bigger screen too. If you have a perceptive eye, it pales next to film Imax. If you aren't sensitive to such things, it's big and loud and more adrenaline. Right?

This dilutes the Imax name tremendously. Like Brad implied months ago.

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Adrian Winchester
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 - posted April 23, 2010 01:46 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I fully agree that it dilutes the IMAX name for it to be associated with smaller screens, even if thay are larger than typical cinema screens.

But I must say - and I accept that many are likely to disagree - that I'm starting to think that only films actually shot in IMAX are sharp enough to look good projected via 70mm IMAX film on an enormous screen. I've recently seen 'Avatar' and 'Alice and Wonderland' and to me, they don't look that great blown up so much and with a relatively square picture. 'Alice' often looked over-exposed and lacking in contrast - I don't know why. I found it more pleasing to the eye to see 'Avatar' at the Barbican (in 3D and scope ratio) even though the depth of the 3D wasn't so impressive.

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Adrian Winchester

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Joe McAllister
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 - posted April 23, 2010 02:22 PM      Profile for Joe McAllister   Email Joe McAllister   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
So I gather from this that Imax screenings of Avatar,and presumably other commercial films 3D or not , are not in fact presented in Imax. Which in my experience is a format taller than it is wide i.e. 5x4 approx.

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Always interested in privately produced amateur and home movies.

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Bill Brandenstein
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 - posted April 23, 2010 03:08 PM      Profile for Bill Brandenstein   Email Bill Brandenstein   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
No, not so. See Brad's posting above listing all the different formats in which Avatar was presented, including 70mm Imax 3D.

"How to Train Your Dragon" has an addendum to the credits for the 3D presentation, including the lab that struck the 70mm Imax prints.

So if you want film Imax, you have to know your venue. And Adrian, I wouldn't for a second disagree that Imax DMR blowups don't look as good as native Imax. But they would be better than digital 3-D.

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Adrian Winchester
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 - posted April 23, 2010 03:11 PM      Profile for Adrian Winchester   Email Adrian Winchester   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
(Just seen that I was writing this response at the same time as Bill)

Well, they are presented in Imax in Imax cinemas such as Bradford and London, in the sense that 15:70 (i.e. horizontal 70mm Imax-type) film is being used, just as with films produced specially for Imax cinemas.

However, in my opinion, features look too blown up, because unlike 'proper' Imax films, they are not shot using Imax cameras, partly because of the extra expanse involved. One of very few exceptions was 'The Dark Knight', which had some sequences shot in Imax. I haven't seen it, but I expect seeing it on an enormous Imax screen would have illustrated a dramatic difference in picture quality between the sections shot with different cameras. I'm not sure if the picture ratio changed at the relevant times.

I believe Imax cameras shoot in 1:1.4 ratio and the screens are similar, even if they might look like they are taller than they are wide!

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Adrian Winchester

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