A 2h30m hour film from the early IMAX days weighed a quarter of a ton.
IMAX refers to the high-resolution cameras and film projectors that made larger than life theatres possible. IMAX is not an abbreviation for anything but rather a name thought up by Roman Kroitor, Robert Kerr, Graeme Ferguson and William Shaw because the previous name was not patentable – formerly Multiscreen Corporation Ltd tried to patent Mutlivision. They introduced IMAX in the early 1960s. The projectors ran horizontally which was unconventional for film at the time.
IMAX was initially presented using a curved screen that stands over 20m tall. The tallest having reached 36m. The seating is steep so that you get a feeling of being right up against the screen, not being able to see outside the frame without turning your head. A very big part of the experience is the far superior audio – much better than in regular theatres at the time. To further expand on the IMAX experience 3D films were introduced in 1998. IMAX went into traditional theatres, far improved by then, with Digital IMAX using 2K projectors. Now, there are over 1,300 IMAX screens around the globe.
70mm film was used for the IMAX projectors which produced an almost 10 times larger display than the regular theatres which used 35mm. Large display was also attempted by Cinerama using multiple projector systems but the process was too difficult with alignment being a big challenge.
The IMAX projector uses a vacuum to secure the steady display viewers end up seeing. The vacuum was needed due to the size of the film and peripheries making stability a challenge. It was also intuitively equipped with wiper blades to remove dust and an adjustable lens if dust needed to be dodged.
IMAX’s innovation in film received the Oscar for Scientific and Technical achievement in 1996.