DMR for schmucks

How many of you know about IMAX feature presentations. Here in the UK you may have seen a Hollywood blockbuster at an IMAX theatre.

If you have, you would have seen a projection of the feature in IMAX DMR.

This format is a digital remastering of the original film print upconverted to an IMAX format film reel. As the IMAX theatres typically have screens over 75ft tall, the original print would not fill that space. Thus this conversion process.

IMAX film stock is different to normal film stock in that it uses 65mm film but horizontally not vertically through the cameras.

The IMAX format is generically called “15/70” film, this name referrs to the 15 sprocket holes per frame of 70 mm stock. Compared to the 5 perf 35mm film stock regularly used in motion pictures.

If you compare IMAX film with your regular 35mm film stock, there is a huge difference in physical dimension and quality.



So why my rant ….. Well my first experience of a DMR feature was when I saw The Matrix Reloaded, whatever anyone thinks about the Matrix sequels, the conversion looked stunning and the VFX translated very well after going through the DMR process. Less can be said, however, with Mr. Nolan’s more recent efforts.

I have great admiration for Christopher Nolan’s work, but I come away from his imax films feeling cheated and more than a little upset, these include The Dark Knight and Inception. I make an effort to not only see these movies in their 35mm screenings but I also go out of my way to watch them in IMAX too, if it looks like some work has gone into the main production & especially if the film itself sounds interesting and impressive, technical achievements aside.

What excited me with Mr. Nolan’s work, has been his use of IMAX and 65mm cameras during principal photography of both of the afore mentioned features.

These upconversions should have looked stunning. And they did! Well in parts, let me explain…


Inception’s last 20 minutes seems to have all been shot with a 65mm camera as images filled the entire aspect ratio of the screen and there was a very sharp image. This would mean that the conversion would be sharper and clearer as a larger are of original film negative would be available. In complete contrast to the main bulk of the movie which had banding top and bottom. This also is a very good thing. The move from one format to the other was seamless and immersed the audience unconsciously. So what’s my problem …? Well the first part, the actual 35mm transfer.

For the first 2/3 of the film I kept looking at soft, often blurry images that did not do this film any justice, clarity was lost and it often felt muddy. I had come to expect more from IMAX, I even noticed this whilst watching The Dark Knight. But surely the upconversion process would not create such a dull and lifeless print.

I have seen Star Trek, Transformers, Harry Potter etc, none of which seemed to suffer from such a lack of image clarity. It was similar to watching a poor quality VHS on a screen the size of a football pitch! During the Dark Knight we were treated with IMAX filmed ariel views which were, quite simply, breathtaking. Just why then are paying audiences left with such poor quality transfers for the non specialised shots?

Who is to blame here. IMAX, studios, marketing?

I can only guess the issue is either money or just bad workmanship. I’m left rather upset and annoyed that my money is being given to recoup money on a great product that is badly delivered. Just don’t even get me started on the recent 3D conversion trend, which I have very strong opinions on, I have been taking 3D images for years and welcome the re introduction of 3d cinema, but am opposed to the studios siren call with these quick transfers.

IMAX, Warner & Christopher Nolan, you need to really do better here. Most people may not notice or even be aware of these issues but if i pay to see a DMR movie, then you have to deliver a better end result. You have the technology to do better. If a certain standard can not be achieved, then i say to the studios..please don’t make us the public pay good money for it, and simply don’t release a product that can’t deliver.

I love IMAX features and will not stop going, but they have to do a lot better here. Or at least explain that there will be a considerable loss in sharpness of the image. Which I doubt they will do. This practice is dumbing peoples senses down and insulting many of us paying to help recoup movie costs.

Rant over, I feel clean again.

Chipmunk image courtesy of flickr –


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One Response to “DMR for schmucks”

  1. Ket says:

    Interesting conversation on twitter just cropped up pointing to this:

    I hope more Directors put pressure on projectionists and multiplexes.

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