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The IMAX (Image Maximum) system has its roots in Canada where
multi-screen films were the hit of the fair. A small group of Canadian
filmmakers Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor and Robert Kerr decided to
design a new system using a single, powerful projector, rather than the
cumbersome multiple projectors used at that time. The result is the IMAX
motion picture projection system, which would revolutionize the giant-
screen cinema.IMAX delivers just that on a screen four times the size of
conventional movie screens. Multi channel digital sound with excellent
picture quality gives the viewers the feeling of being present in the scene
been shown.

IMAX movie screen as

compared with
conventional screens

IMAX was premiered at the Fuji Pavilion, EXPO '70 in Osaka, Japan.
The first permanent IMAX projection system was installed at Ontario
Place's Cinesphere in Toronto in 1971. IMAX Dome (OMNIMAX) debuted
at the Reuben H. Fleet Space Theatre in San Diego, CA in 1973.

Sonics Associates of Birmingham, Alabama developed the IMAX

digital sound system. In 1993, Sonic introduced the IMAX 3D sound system
with 10 channels. IMAX -3D is a new motion picture process that creates
the illusion of depth (or 3D) by projecting on the screen an image for the
right eye, then an image for the left eye (30 times per second). Special
goggles allow only one eye at a time to see the screen. The liquid crystal
goggles are in sync with the projector via infrared signals beamed at the
goggles on your head.
Goggles used in IMAX- 3D

Theater speakers produce 8 channels from 4 CD disks synchronized

with the15-perforation 70mm filmstrip running through the projector
horizontally past a 15,000-watt lamp at 48 frames per second. The 3D
headset has 2 additional channels for the binaural Personal Sound
Environment (PSE). Binaural sound emanates from the headsets' two
small speakers, just above and slightly in front of your ears; they cover all
but the frequencies below 100 Hz. Low bass is handled by a pair of
subwoofers behind the giant screen. Four full-range speakers, also behind
the screen, keeps sound tied solidly to the films image even if you turn
your head; if you have trouble imaging binaurally (as some people do),
these speakers will prevent front sounds from seeming to come from the
sides or rear. Two more speakers, in the rear of the theater, carry only
surround ambience; the headset's binaural speakers carry sounds that are
supposed to originate behind you.

Eight channels of an 18,000-watt, 10-channel amplification system

feed the speakers; the other two channels feed the binaural signals to the
headsets. These amps are fed from four audio CDs, computer-
synchronized with one another and with the projectors. The headsets can
receive four separate soundtracks, so a movie could be presented in
different languages simultaneously if the theater provides enough

The difference between the IMAX sound system and the surround
systems in conventional theaters is that the typical IMAX screen is close to
a conventional 4:3 aspect ratio, but much, much bigger. So you have a
great deal of vertical, which gives you the opportunity to do a 'voice-of-God'
loudspeaker. IMAX system power varies depending on the size of the
room, but it is typically in the range of 12,500 watts. The power is not there
for the loudness; it's there for clarity and freedom from distortion. The
enclosures are three-way systems using components custom-designed and
manufactured to specifications and combines four low-frequency
loudspeakers in each cabinet with nested high- and mid-frequency horns.
Using a sub-bass system for the deepest low sounds minimizes phase
coherence problems. In most installations there are eight sub-bass
loudspeakers each with in a 16-cubic-foot enclosure. The enclosures
include a filtering labyrinth that physically traps the higher-frequency
components that can otherwise cause overtones and distortion.

Another distinction between IMAX and other theater surround

systems is that it uses no digital audio data compression. The DDP (Digital
Disk Playback system) is full fidelity "double-system" approaches, meaning
that the sound is not recorded on the film itself. DDP uses three CD-Audio
discs with a patented sample-accurate playback synchronization system.
DTAC, the company's newest system, plays back audio files either from
DVD-ROM or from a built-in hard disk.

Unlike traditional flat-screen IMAX ® theaters, the new, Hackworth

IMAX ® Dome Theater features a giant eight story domed screen and six-
channel, digital wrap around sound with 13,000 watts of power coming from
44 speakers. It seats 295 people in special reclining chairs that accentuate
the feeling of actually being in the movie. The Hackworth IMAX ® Dome
Theater is the only theater of its kind in Northern California.

Hackworth IMAX® Dome


The technology that makes IMAX unique comes into play during the
production process, when film 10 times the size of standard movie images
is loaded into a 52-pound camera. Each IMAX film frame is roughly the size
of a business card. IMAX film cartridges, which weigh nearly five pounds
when fully loaded. Larger film translates into sharper images on the movie
screen, which isn't actually a traditional, flexible screen at all. Instead, 340
perforated aluminum panels have been pieced together like an igloo to
form the projection dome. Nearly a quarter of the dome's inside surface is
actually tiny holes, put there to allow sound to pass through from the 44
speakers concealed behind the panel.


Projecting the film is a technological feat in itself. The movie is stored

on reels the size of tractor tires that must be loaded onto a hand-built
projector. The loading process is done beneath the theater, inside a dust-
free projection and operator's room and visible through windows as the
audience prepares to enter the Hackworth. At the start of the show, the
entire two-ton projection package is lifted on an elevator some 22 feet into
a box, called a "dog house,'' built into the theater's seating area.

Film passes behind the lens at the rate of 51/2 feet each second. A
typical 40-minute IMAX movie requires moving more than 3 miles of film
through the projector. The 15,000-watt xenon lamp used to project the
image onto the screen is so bright that, if it were placed on the moon, it
could be seen from Earth. The lamp's surface reaches 1,300 degrees
Fahrenheit, requiring a cooling system to pump five gallons of water and
800 cubic feet of air around the bulb each minute. Unlike typical
commercial movies, the sound for the Hackworth's IMAX films is not
embedded in the film stock. Instead, the digital sound is played from a
compact disc and is synchronized with the images by a special audio

India’s first IMAX theatre has been set up in Mumbai this year. It has
a dome screen of 30m diameter that offers viewers a real-life experience.
The theatre screened The Blue Planet and The Mysteries of Egypt in the
inaugural shows.