Imax Laser-Illuminated Projection at TCL Chinese Theatres - AVS | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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Old 04-20-2015, 03:44 PM - Thread Starter
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Imax Laser-Illuminated Projection at TCL Chinese Theatres



The new Imax laser-projection system at the TCL Chinese Theatres is a quantum leap in commercial-cinema image quality.

Movie projectors that use red, green, and blue lasers instead of white-light lamps have long been promised, but until very recently, they've only been demonstrated in prototype form. That's about to change—big time. This month, Imax installed its laser-projection system in the main auditorium at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, CA, just in time for the world premiere of Furious 7, the latest in the Fast & Furious franchise. When I heard about it, I made a beeline to the theater, not because I wanted to see the movie—far from it, I'm no fan of movies that have nothing but explosions, gunfire, and roaring cars—but rather because I wanted to see the laser-illuminated projector in action.

Actually, as with previous digital installations, Imax uses two projectors, even for 2D movies such as Furious 7. Each one weights about 1600 pounds, and the laser engines are incorporated into the body of each projector with outboard liquid-cooling units. Each projector is tuned to produce a peak brightness of 22 foot-lamberts on the screen, which requires the lasers to run at only 30% of their capacity on the TCL Chinese Theatre's 90-foot-wide high-gain screen.


The Imax laser-illuminated projection system consists of two projectors and an outboard liquid-cooling system—no conventional venting required.

Speaking of the screen at the Chinese, it's currently a silver polarization-preserving material. With lamp-based digital projectors, Imax 3D uses linear polarization to isolate the left and right images, which requires such a screen. By contrast, the new laser-illumination system uses what's generically called 6P (6-primary), in which the image for the left eye uses slightly different wavelengths of red, green, and blue than the image for the right eye, and dichroic-filter glasses isolate each image accordingly. This is the same idea behind Dolby 3D, but Imax uses different wavelengths.

I must admit that I'm not thrilled by this change—I'm bothered by reflections between the inner surface of these glasses and the outer surface of my prescription glasses, a problem I haven't noticed with polarized 3D glasses. On the plus side, the current screen could be replaced with a white screen, since this type of 3D does not depend on polarization. A white screen would be better for 2D presentations, and the projectors output so much light, there's no need for a high-gain screen, though it would cost the theater some serious coin.

One of the biggest issues to overcome with laser-illuminated projectors is speckle, which looks like—well, speckling. It's especially visible in flat areas of color, particularly red and green. There are several ways to reduce the appearance of speckle in laser-illuminated images—Imax installs acoustical transducers behind the screen, which vibrate the screen and effectively eliminate visible speckle. I saw no speckle during the movie.

I won't go into the movie itself, except to say it's pretty silly—and loud! I measured an Leq (average level) of 97.4 dBC over the course of the movie plus trailers, an Lmax (1-second maximum RMS) value of 114 dBC, an L10 (the level above which the sound stayed 10% of the time) of 101 dBC, and an L50 (the level above which the sound stayed 50% of the time) of 91 dBC. Needless to say, I expected to need my earplugs, and I sure did!


Furious 7 is the latest in the successful franchise, starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, and the late Paul Walker.

As fans of the franchise know, one of the stars, Paul Walker, died during production—ironically, he was a passenger in a car that was speeding along at over 100 MPH—and he was digitally re-created as needed to complete the movie. I did not notice any evidence of that wizardry—it was entirely seamless. At the end, there's a touching tribute to Walker that fans will no doubt appreciate. (For more on how Paul Walker was digitally integrated into the movie, see this article at The Hollywood Reporter.)

As for the image, it was spectacular! The projectors are 4K, and the DCP (digital-cinema package) file was 4K as well. The blacks were much deeper than any other commercial-cinema presentation I can recall, and shadow detail was excellent. Likewise, the color was exceptional, with entirely natural skin tones and no hint that slightly different wavelengths of red, green, and blue were used to paint the picture—in fact, that might actually help to reduce speckle. The movie's aspect ratio is 2.35:1, while the screen is somewhat less than that, leading to unmasked letterbox bars that were far darker than any I'd seen previously in a commercial cinema.

Interestingly, Imax recently finished installing its new immersive-sound system in the TCL Chinese auditorium—it's 12.1 with four additional ceiling speakers and two additional side-height speaker arrays along with two 16-foot-tall subwoofer clusters. However, the Furious 7 DCP was 5.1 only, so the new speakers were not used for this presentation.

The TCL Chinese installation is the second Imax laser-illuminated projection system to be deployed for public viewing—the first is at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto, Canada, where The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies was the first movie to be shown on the system last December. Imax reports that more than 71 systems have been sold, and the next planned installations are at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA, and the Smithsonian's Airbus Imax theater in Virginia.

I was extremely impressed with the Imax laser-illuminated projection system—super-deep blacks, great shadow detail, and superb color. I can't wait to see other movies at the TCL Chinese Imax theater. It's a great time to be a movie-technology geek!

Check out this featurette about the Imax laser-illuminated projection system:


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Last edited by Scott Wilkinson; 04-21-2015 at 01:36 PM.
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Old 04-20-2015, 04:05 PM
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Scott,
could you point to the website where they name the cities and movie theaters for this new installation? I would love to see some here in Vegas. BTW. I had to laugh when I heard your Dust storm story on the NAB coverage. Still so much dust in the air here that everybody's noses are running and eyes are burning.

Cheers
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Old 04-20-2015, 04:11 PM
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Man those projectors look menacing!! Im very excited to see a show with these doing the projecting. Nice write-up as well Scott!!

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Old 04-20-2015, 04:12 PM
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I really want to see one of these laser projection systems.

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Old 04-20-2015, 04:20 PM
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I'm sure the cost to install this system was high, which will be passed onto the customer with higher ticket prices. Scott what does a ticket for a movie at the TCL Chinese IMAX theater cost?

The last IMAX film I went to (Chappie) was $14.80/ticket here in the Detroit area. 3D movies are typically $3 higher.

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Old 04-20-2015, 04:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
Interestingly, Imax recently finished installing its new immersive-sound system in the TCL Chinese auditorium—it's 12.1 with four additional ceiling speakers and two additional side-height speaker arrays along with two 16-foot-tall subwoofer clusters. However, the Furious 7 DCP was 5.1 only, so the new speakers were not used for this presentation.
I thought IMAX movies have the standard 6.1 (5.1 + center height) sound?
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Old 04-20-2015, 04:36 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by They_call_me_Roto View Post
I'm sure the cost to install this system was high, which will be passed onto the customer with higher ticket prices. Scott what does a ticket for a movie at the TCL Chinese IMAX theater cost?

The last IMAX film I went to (Chappie) was $14.80/ticket here in the Detroit area. 3D movies are typically $3 higher.
The TCL Chinese Imax ticket price is $19.95; the Imax at AMC Burbank 16 (not laser) is $18.49, while the AMC Universal CityWalk 19 Imax is only $12.49 (and that's for the 7:00 show, not a bargain matinee, though CityWalk charges for parking, some of which you get back with validation).

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Old 04-20-2015, 04:45 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boguspomp View Post
Scott,
could you point to the website where they name the cities and movie theaters for this new installation? I would love to see some here in Vegas. BTW. I had to laugh when I heard your Dust storm story on the NAB coverage. Still so much dust in the air here that everybody's noses are running and eyes are burning.

Cheers
There are only two theaters with the Imax laser-projection system currently, as indicated in the OP. I'll see if Imax is planning to put up a page with a list once a few more are deployed, but I don't think they have one now.

That dust storm was quite amazing! Here's a photo I took from the convention center last Tuesday at its height:



When I walked out of the convention center, I was hit by what seemed like gale-force winds!

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Old 04-20-2015, 04:47 PM
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Wow, cool report.

And I didn't even know that a theater right near where I live, Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto, has one of these systems!
I'll have to check it out.
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Old 04-20-2015, 04:47 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Skylinestar View Post
I thought IMAX movies have the standard 6.1 (5.1 + center height) sound?
According to the file name of the DCP (which I saw in the projection booth), it was 5.1. So I guess they weren't using the center-height channel.

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Old 04-20-2015, 04:47 PM
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That sounds like exactly what it would take to get me to go back to a commercial movie theater. Last time I saw a whole movie in an IMAX was when Iron Man 3 came out.

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Old 04-20-2015, 04:50 PM - Thread Starter
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I really want to see one of these laser projection systems.
Yes, you do! Come on down to Hollywood...

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Old 04-20-2015, 04:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boguspomp View Post
Scott,
could you point to the website where they name the cities and movie theaters for this new installation? I would love to see some here in Vegas. BTW. I had to laugh when I heard your Dust storm story on the NAB coverage. Still so much dust in the air here that everybody's noses are running and eyes are burning.

Cheers
Actually, Imax does have a webpage with a list of its laser-projection theaters. Scroll down to the bottom of that page; there are only two theaters listed so far, but more are on the way.
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Old 04-20-2015, 07:14 PM
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I thought the laser technology would eliminate the need for 2 projectors? Wasn't it suppose to equal 70mm resolution? Is that still not the case? I know they use 2 2K projectors currently since there's none that matches it.

I read about laser projectors years ago and it was said to replace 70mm (not that i in any way agree with that! Nothing beats analog film).

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Old 04-20-2015, 07:16 PM
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Too bad I don't live in L.A. anymore. This was my favorite movie theater growing up as a kid, and it still is. It always had a really big picture and an even bigger booming thunderous sound.

I visited L.A. last year and dragged my mom to see I, Frankenstein (horrible movie, sorry mom...) just to see the IMAX conversion. Everything about the movie presentation here is classic Hollywood, from the ambiance, the curtain that opens and closes, to even an introduction from a live person about the theater, movie and proper theater courtesies. It's funny how this IMAX theater stride on a consistent quality presentation. My usher (very sweet and friendly lady) told me to let her know that anytime during the movie where I felt the pciture wasn't sharp, or the sound wasn't great, to let her know and she will have it fixed.

The screen was much larger than the pre-Imax screen or any Imax screen at the local cinema. I was sitting about the third row from the back, but it felt more like I was at the thrid row from the front. The usher told me the screen was 96 feet wide, but the movie didn't fill up the entire length of the screen, leaving a few feet on the sides. So maybe the new laser projector is filling up the entire length of the screen now??? I can't wait to see a movie here again with the new projection system. Also can't wait for a system like this to come to the consumer level for under $5K.
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Old 04-20-2015, 07:36 PM
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What's the update on the more affordable laser home projection systems? What options do you guys see up and coming that have decent brightness? Are two projectors basically a necessity?

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Old 04-20-2015, 07:56 PM
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I dont want to switch the topic here but i just have to say that Paul Walker was not the driver of the car and in fact a proffessional race car driver, Roger Rodas, was the driver. They were on their way to Walker's charity event. I'm not looking for an arguement, i just had to bring attention to the facts a great guy's death.
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Old 04-20-2015, 08:34 PM
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Finally! I've been looking for a review of their new laser projection system!
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Old 04-20-2015, 08:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saprano View Post
I thought the laser technology would eliminate the need for 2 projectors? Wasn't it suppose to equal 70mm resolution? Is that still not the case? I know they use 2 2K projectors currently since there's none that matches it.

I read about laser projectors years ago and it was said to replace 70mm (not that i in any way agree with that! Nothing beats analog film).
2 will always be greater than 1. However, they don't use 2 projectors for additional resolution, they do so for extra brightness. I imagine it might also help with 3d too, having one projector for each eye. As far as it matching 70mm resolution, while technically 70mm doesn't have a "resolution" there's more information there than 4K can capture, but 4K is as close as we're going to get in projector land for a while. Well, maybe laser projectors will help us get to 8K faster, but it'll still be probably another 10 years.
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Old 04-20-2015, 09:37 PM
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The Virginia installation may be a feasible visit later this year if it's ready/opened. Hopefully a worthy film will be playing at the time I can arrange a trip. As a former Mits LaserVue owner, I'm excited to see what IMAX's laser projection can do. It sure sounds promising.
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Old 04-20-2015, 10:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr.Evazan View Post
I dont want to switch the topic here but i just have to say that Paul Walker was not the driver of the car and in fact a proffessional race car driver, Roger Rodas, was the driver. They were on their way to Walker's charity event. I'm not looking for an arguement, i just had to bring attention to the facts a great guy's death.
Quite right; I changed the OP accordingly. Thanks!

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Old 04-20-2015, 10:37 PM
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Abso!utely fascinating. ...IMAX laser.
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Old 04-20-2015, 10:53 PM
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Well, I guess I will have to pack some ear plugs and mosey on over to the Chinese to check out this IMAX laser projector.

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Old 04-21-2015, 01:00 AM
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Why aren't they selling tickets for Age of Ultron? Just a couple weeks left...

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Old 04-21-2015, 08:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
[IMG]On the plus side, the current screen could be replaced with a white screen, since this type of 3D does not depend on polarization. A white screen would be better for 2D presentations, and the projectors output so much light, there's no need for a high-gain screen, though it would cost the theater some serious coin.
I didn't understand this bit. Compared to what must be monstrously-high costs for the laser projectors, would a plain white screen cost "serious coin"?
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Old 04-21-2015, 08:35 AM
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Reviewed at Gizmodo

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Originally Posted by javanpohl View Post
Finally! I've been looking for a review of their new laser projection system!
http://journals.plos.org/plosone/art...l.pone.0121922
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Old 04-21-2015, 08:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by javanpohl View Post
2 will always be greater than 1. However, they don't use 2 projectors for additional resolution, they do so for extra brightness. I imagine it might also help with 3d too, having one projector for each eye. As far as it matching 70mm resolution, while technically 70mm doesn't have a "resolution" there's more information there than 4K can capture, but 4K is as close as we're going to get in projector land for a while. Well, maybe laser projectors will help us get to 8K faster, but it'll still be probably another 10 years.
http://gizmodo.com/imaxs-new-laser-p...-mo-1689480610

"The side-by-side dual projector setup also helps improve sharpness and reduce the jagged aliasing artifacts often seen along curved edges in digital images. On a 50-inch 4K TV it's all but impossible for your eyes to see any digital artifacts, but when a 4K image is projected on a 120-foot wide screen, they suddenly become easy to spot. And artifacts like that can distract audience members from the experience.

So to help that 4K image look as clean and sharp as possible on a giant screen, as part of the IMAX mastering process two nearly identical images are produced that are projected on top of each other at the same time. But while those two images look identical, they're actually not. They're both slightly shifted, imperceptibly, to produce extra in-between details at the sub-pixel level when overlaid on top of each other.

People often refer to film as having an unlimited resolution because there are no individual pixels to quantify. And that was one of IMAX's goals with its new projector technology. At a technical level each projector is producing a 4K image, but working together they help produce an image that's nearly impossible for the human eye to discern the individual pixels."
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Old 04-21-2015, 09:23 AM
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Scott, thanks for the info. Just keep in mind that, if it weren't for the loud and wild movies like FF7, we wouldn't have dual laser projectors lighting up multi-story screens for the masses. I can't wait for FF8.

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Old 04-21-2015, 10:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Guygasm View Post
http://gizmodo.com/imaxs-new-laser-p...-mo-1689480610

"The side-by-side dual projector setup also helps improve sharpness and reduce the jagged aliasing artifacts often seen along curved edges in digital images. On a 50-inch 4K TV it's all but impossible for your eyes to see any digital artifacts, but when a 4K image is projected on a 120-foot wide screen, they suddenly become easy to spot. And artifacts like that can distract audience members from the experience.

So to help that 4K image look as clean and sharp as possible on a giant screen, as part of the IMAX mastering process two nearly identical images are produced that are projected on top of each other at the same time. But while those two images look identical, they're actually not. They're both slightly shifted, imperceptibly, to produce extra in-between details at the sub-pixel level when overlaid on top of each other.

People often refer to film as having an unlimited resolution because there are no individual pixels to quantify. And that was one of IMAX's goals with its new projector technology. At a technical level each projector is producing a 4K image, but working together they help produce an image that's nearly impossible for the human eye to discern the individual pixels."
Yeah... I'm a little skeptical on that. On an X/Y plane, you can shift the pixels horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, but unless you have four projectors, you're going to end up with "gaps". Wait, are they doing an "e-shift", a la JVC's "4K", approach with each projector? That would do it. Shift one horizontally, shift the other vertically.
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Old 04-21-2015, 10:35 AM
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Are those IMAX laser projectors HDR-ready?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Guygasm View Post
People often refer to film as having an unlimited resolution because there are no individual pixels to quantify.
Just for the record:
Film used randomized sampling patterns, changing aliasing artifacts into noise. But that doesn't mean that it has unlimited resolution.

While a 35 mm can hold roughly 4k worth of resolution at 10% contrast, you're lucky if you're getting HD once you reach the release print.


http://www.motionfx.gr/files/35mm_re...on_english.pdf
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