Now this question has been floating around the web for the past few months and believe it or not, it’s a very important one because it all depends on whether you want to get the best experience out of the most anticipated film of the year. Firstly though, I’ll give you a quick rundown of my background. I actually work as an IMAX projectionist at the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK and since I started the job my knowledge of an IMAX cinema has dramatically improved. There is a BIG difference between the IMAX 15/70 and IMAX Digital cinemas, but fear not, I’m going to give you the reasons why one is significantly better than the other and how to can find out if your nearest IMAX is right one to see ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ from 20th July.
What is IMAX 15/70?
In the late 60′s early 70′s, a small group of Canadian filmmakers/entrepreneurs decide to design a new projection system using a single, powerful projector, rather than the multiple projectors used at that time. The result: IMAX or Image Maximum. Using the popular 70mm film format they found a new way to run the film through a projector horizontally and by flipping the image so that the width of the film is the height of each frame. Resulting in, what remains today, as the highest resolution possible on film. Now the name, IMAX 15/70, is actually taken from the number of perforations/holes per frame and the film format it’s printed on. The picture below shows you a single frame of IMAX film alongside the conventional 35mm film format that has 4 perfs per frame.
Over the last decade mainstream multiplex cinemas have slowly moved towards digital projection and with that IMAX were presented with a problem where Hollywood were beginning to produce more digital ‘prints’ over the conventional 35mm film prints due to cost. Also with the 70mm IMAX projectors and huge screens proving to be far too expensive to produce on a mass scale. IMAX had no choice but to join the digital frontier and so in 2008, IMAX digital was born. They developed a new system by using 2 side-by-side 2K Christie projectors and layered they’re images over one another on to a screen that would be moved closer to the audience giving the film an IMAX-like supersize. However over the last few years critics have dubbed this format fake IMAX or lieMAX and quite rightly so especially when you look at (the image below) the actual screen size and aspect ratio.
IMAX Digital isn’t looking so great after all and the fact that IMAX don’t actively tell you if their cinema is either 15/70 or Digital it’s just plain…sneaky. I mean especially when they expect you to fork out roughly the same amount of money to see both.
Now I recently performed a quick google search on tickets for opening night of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ at both an IMAX 15/70 (The PrintWorks Odeon, Manchester UK) and IMAX Digital (Cineworld, Sheffield UK) cinemas just to see how much a ticket would cost. At Cineworld it will cost you £13.10 (adult)/£10.60 (child) and at the The Odeon it will cost you £13.35 (adult)/£10.50 (child). As you can see the prices are extremely similar, so for someone who doesn’t know the difference between 15/70 and Digital, they’ll have no idea that they’re missing out.
SO, WHY SEE ‘THE DARK KNIGHT RISES’ IN AN IMAX 15/70 CINEMA?
Now of course, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ isn’t going to be entirely (although that would be awesome) in full screen IMAX. The majority of the film will be in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio or cinemascope but when those certain IMAX scenes come along the image will fill the screen in the 1.44:1 aspect ratio. Now it doesn’t matter too much if you don’t understand aspect ratios etc. What I’m basically getting at is, you’ll only experience this dramatic change in the IMAX 15/70 cinemas because in the IMAX digital cinemas, whose average aspect ratio is 1.85:1, this transition will be much less noticeable and ultimately, you’ll be missing out. The example diagram below explains this further.
The director, Christopher Nolan, previously shot footage for ‘The Dark Knight’ using IMAX cameras, but it wasn’t just used as a gimmick like 3D. These IMAX scenes played a key role in setting the tone for the film, they were mostly exterior shots, flyovers of the city and amazing, breathtaking chases that stretched out to cover the entire screen conveying a extraordinary sense of immersion. This time Nolan has stated there’s just under 1 hour’s worth of IMAX in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, which is not only incredibly brave but a real testament to his dedication to the format. He’s even said in the past: ”if you could take an IMAX camera to Mount Everest or outer space, you could use it in a feature movie.” So we really owe it to him to see it the way he wants you to see it.
HOW TO FIND YOUR NEAREST IMAX 15/70 CINEMA
Now if you live in the UK unfortunately they are only 5 locations where you can see it in this format
BFI IMAX, London - BOOK TICKETS
Science Museum, London – BOOK TICKETS
National Media Museum IMAX, Bradford – BOOK TICKETS*
Glasgow Science Centre IMAX Cinema – BOOK TICKETS
Odeon Manchester IMAX @ The Printworks – BOOK TICKETS
* We’re currently selling tickets at £10 (adult)/£8 (child). So if you’re nearby be sure to check out the film here.
However if you don’t live in the UK – Click here for a list of International IMAX Cinemas
Roll on 20th July! and let me know in the comments where and when you’ll be seeing the film.