Damn You, James Cameron, I Just Want To Watch The Pretty Pictures, Not Spend Hours Researching Competing Theater 3D Projection Standards
December 31, 2009 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Avatar on IMAX 3D, is Fake IMAX the better choice or should drive further for the bigger Real IMAX screen?

my understanding is the fake IMAX is actually showing Avatar at the resolution it was recorded, and Real IMAX is upsampling and using Edge Enhancing to show Avatar on the bigger screen. Which is gonna give the better experience? Which has better 3D tech?
posted by jrishel to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: also, I'm red-green color blind and I understand that Dolby 3D uses red-green spectrum shifting for it's 3D effect... I think the glasses will take care of colors for me, but will my screwy color vision cause any problems?
posted by jrishel at 7:51 AM on December 31, 2009

Best answer: I've seen Avatar in IMAX 3d, RealD (regular theater 3d), and 2d, and I have to say that the RealD experience was the best of all. The IMAX 3d glasses were warped and flimsy, and "lost" the 3d effect occasionally, there was much more strobing, and the colors were somewhat washed out. I vastly preferred the RealD presentation, the 3d effect was more convincing and the colors were much closer to the 2d version.
posted by Oktober at 7:58 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: what size your IMAX 3D screen? you can look it up on this real/fake map
posted by jrishel at 8:01 AM on December 31, 2009

It's the "Real" one at Navy Pier in Chicago.
posted by Oktober at 8:02 AM on December 31, 2009

Fake IMAX is just as imaxy as real IMAX (depending on what you mean by IMAX). IMAX just means 70mm film - it's just a higher resolution. If you want the film to fill your entire field of vision go to real IMAX. Otherwise go fake
posted by Andy Harwood at 8:35 AM on December 31, 2009

A couple of links that may be of interested to you in making up your mind about which to choose: Roger Ebert wrote this blog entry about IMAX and why real is better than fake - and followed it up with his review of Avatar.
posted by urbanlenny at 8:40 AM on December 31, 2009

To piggyback on this question: Is the IMAX version pan-scanned or are there black bars on the top and bottom?
posted by null terminated at 8:42 AM on December 31, 2009

Best answer: I saw in Real 3D the other day and the technology kind of sucked. It seemed like the 3D would sort of become incoherent at some points, especially right at the beginning. I was sitting somewhat off-angle though. (my friend waited like 20 minutes in line to get popcorn *sigh*). I also used to work at a VR lab and I never had any trouble with shutter glasses or polarized glasses.

But after 20 minutes I stopped noticing the problems, either I got better at integrating the images or I just stopped noticing glitches. The movie was still really awesome, even on a regular screen.
I've seen Avatar in IMAX 3d, RealD (regular theater 3d), and 2d, and I have to say that the RealD experience was the best of all. The IMAX 3d glasses were warped and flimsy, and "lost" the 3d effect occasionally, there was much more strobing, and the colors were somewhat washed out.
Huh, that's really interesting. Did you see it in IMAX first? Maybe it just takes a while for your brain to get used to 3D cinema. (as opposed to interactive VR which is all static screens with hardly any transitions) Like I said, I haven't seen it in Imax yet.

It's also interesting how Dolby's site says their glasses have "vivid color" and "realistic color". Obviously the polarized glasses like RealD have no impact whatsoever on color, while Dolby's would. It's like they're trying to convince people the color isn't that bad with their system.
also, I'm red-green color blind and I understand that Dolby 3D uses red-green spectrum shifting for it's 3D effect... I think the glasses will take care of colors for me, but will my screwy color vision cause any problems?
I just read the Wikipedia article about Dolby 3D. I was kind of suprised. Color blindness won't cause any problems. Your (and everyone elses's) photoreceptor can detect a wide range of colors. The dolby glasses work by spiting up the spectrum between each eye.

here's a graph I googled up. You can see the range of frequency response for each 'color' (plus cones, which detect light without color information, but they peak in green, which is why green light looks brighter) here's another one.

If you're eyes are missing some photoreceptor, you just won't see that part of the spectrum, but the parts of the will still be there, and they'll stay split up appropriately by the glasses.
posted by delmoi at 8:51 AM on December 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

(er, 'photoreceptors' should be plural in my above post. I think spellchecking ate my 's'es)
posted by delmoi at 8:57 AM on December 31, 2009

I did see it in IMAX 3d first, but I've seen other 3d films with no issues before that. Part of the problem may have been that I'm slightly nearsighted and wear glasses, and there was some internal reflection between the IMAX glasses and my glasses. I went without for Real 3d and it worked much better.
posted by Oktober at 9:02 AM on December 31, 2009

This is the first I have read about fake IMAX, though I did see a Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs at a fake IMAX theater and felt ripped off at the time.

I've since done some Googling, and found out that it is all the IMAX company's doing. AMC wanted to call it IMAX Digital, to differentiate the digital projector onto a small 28 foot high screen from the analog projection of 70mm film onto a 76 foot high screen of real IMAX, but that the IMAX company refused to differentiate the two.

To answer your question, fake IMAX has lower resolution than non-digital 35mm film. Real IMAX is 70mm film. Everyone should boycott the fake IMAX ripoff, and maybe boycott IMAX in general to protest this fraud.
posted by eye of newt at 11:07 AM on December 31, 2009

My dad has the same color blindness as you, and he was able to see Avatar in 3D just fine.
posted by sideshow at 11:49 AM on December 31, 2009

The other key factor to consider is sound...

Whatever marginal losses you encounter in aspect ratio/etc., few theatres can compete with the awe-inspiring sound system of a true IMAX theatre. The sound alone is worth the premium on your ticket price.

Therefore, imho, the most completely immersive Avatar experience is IMAX 3D.
posted by fairmettle at 12:12 PM on December 31, 2009

null terminated, I saw it at a real IMAX theater (Metreon in San Francisco) and there were no black bars. I haven't seen it at a fake IMAX so I can't compare, but I had no issues with the picture quality.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 1:28 PM on December 31, 2009

Best answer: Have to second fairmettle's comment on the IMAX sound. I've seen Avatar twice, first in Real3D then in IMAX 3D. I felt Real3d was a better technical picture, but the difference was small. The sound at IMAX makes up for it. Just make sure you get good quality glasses and sit in the middle of the theater and close enough that none of the screen wraps around the corner of your glasses.
posted by IndigoSkye at 10:48 AM on January 1, 2010

Response by poster: I went to a Fake IMAX since some friends had already purchased tickets at that location, at it was great. the 3D was done with red/green tinted and vertical/horizontal polarized lenses, so tilting your head made the things get very blurry. I don't know if the Real IMAX 3D is the exact same tech, but I suspect it is. One friend who had seen the movie previously on a RealD (spiral polarization) screen said the picture was noticeably brighter and you could make out more detail, so I think that might be best bet. Sound was comparable at both locations. I'm curious if anyone has seen it at Real IMAX and one of the other two for comparison
posted by jrishel at 10:15 AM on January 3, 2010

Best answer: I've been reading about this myself, and for reference, here's what I've determined (though it's possible I got something wrong).

*Cameron filmed at 16:9 (aka 1.78:1). He planed to "trim" the top and bottom for cinemascope (aka 2.35:1). For 3D, the theater gets whichever aspect ratio (i.e., 1.78:1 or 2.35:1) they want/can display. 2D gets 2.35:1. (IMDB, assuming it can be trusted, backs up that these are the available aspect ratios.)

*I believe that Real IMAX (i.e., giant screen, analog Film IMAX) has a much higher height to width ratio'ed screen, and that the sides of the 16:9 version were trimmed in order to print the digital movie on to 70mm film and display it on the screen.

*For Fake IMAX (i.e., smaller screen, digital projection IMAX), the screen aspect ratio standard is 16:9.

So yeah, like you said, Digital IMAX 3D seems to be the way to go in terms of not losing any content due to trimming.

By the way, IMAX's website lets you search for theaters, and it lets you see "theater type" for each theater, which reveals whether it's IMAX (real) or IMAX Digital (fake). It includes more theaters than the Real/Fake map, which is nice.

I saw it in IMAX (not IMAX Digital). The glasses weren't tinted color-wise, and were simply horizontally and vertically polarized. Interesting -- based on your experience, jrishel, it seems like IMAX Digital does use a different 3D mechanism, and that it's similar to Dolby 3D.

I also saw the movie in RealD 3D. The aspect ratio was definitely the 2.35:1 version -- it was really long and skinny.

I enjoyed the RealD 3D version much more than IMAX. In RealD, I felt like the whole thing was much sharper and seemed higher resolution (and more uniformly bright as well). I felt like I could see more detailed textures than I could in IMAX. In RealD, I didn't constantly lose the 3D and get a double image like I did with IMAX. Also, IMAX was kind of weird and immersive, which is great for "Mysteries of Space" or "Under the Sea" or other IMAX movies where the intent is to make you feel like you're there -- almost like a ride. But for a "regular" (for lack of a better work) movie like Avatar, I want to see the whole screen! You totally can't do that with IMAX since the screen is so huge. Maybe this contributed to the lower quality 3D in IMAX -- I was moving my head around, trying (unsuccessfully) to see the whole thing, which messed with light filtration (heh). But with RealD I could pretty much just move my eyes.

As far as sound, yeah, I didn't detect a significant difference between the regular theater with the RealD and the IMAX theater.

I also like the idea of circular polarization (which RealD uses) much better than linear; like others have said, circular means that rotating your head doesn't have much of an effect on whether the 3D quits working.

I think the best way to see it would be 16:9 RealD, but I have no idea how to find a theater that is showing it like this. Calling around and asking might work, but could be somewhat unpleasant.

[Apparently there's something called RealD XL, which is double the brightness of regular RealD. The RealD website doesn't specify which theaters are using it, though. It would be nice if theaters posted what kind of projectors they're using. Grr.]
posted by sentient at 11:32 AM on January 31, 2010

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