Go See Tron the Right Way

December 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Posted in Cult Classic, Movies, physics, science, Theater/Theatre | Leave a comment
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I’ll make this quick and to the point. Tron: Legacy has “vertically extended” footage. Over 40 minutes of it; composed of over 7 sequences, according to the latest intel.

That means you need to see it at a REAL IMAX, not some digital multiplex mini-Imax, or Liemax, as some like to call them.

Find the real deal near you, using optical technologies comprised of 15-perf 70mm film. No, the film isn’t actually shot on IMAX cameras, it was shot digitally, using the “2.0” version of James Cameron’s camera system developed for Avatar. But, the sequences are digital creations from the get-go, which means they can render them to whatever aspect ratio they want. They apparently wanted to render them in the IMAX ratio. Most of the film will be in the 2.35-1 ratio, like you would see on your hi-def 16:9 TV screen. The “grid” sequences, however, are rendered at the IMAX aspect of 1:44-1, which, obviously is “more square”. That means you have to find a traditional IMAX screen if you want the most bang for your buck.

Why? Because the film will grow taller in those parts. The aspect ratio literally changes. If you are in a multiplex IMAX that means it will get bigger by like a foot or two. (Yes, for those paying attention that means most of the film will be letterboxed). If you are at a real IMAX theatre, it will get much bigger! Think ten feet not one foot.

How do you find a real Imax theatre? Well, you could type real imax into google and it will bring up a map, probably. There’s a good one floating around. Or, you could click here to bring up a really cool Google Earth map (assuming you have Google Earth installed) that will show them to you. In order of size they are GT, SR, MPX and digital. Try to find a GT near you, or an SR. Screw the rest. Vote with your wallets and let the execs know that you are a discerning viewer and want to see real, giant-screen movies.

Of course, Real-D 3d is also awesome, if you can’t find a big ol’ Imax nearby. I’d choose that over a mini-max. But, the vertically-extended scenes are apparently only going to be at Imax locations…so its up to you.

Update – Just came from Tron, and the vertically extended scenes are awesome. Totally worth the trip to Tempe to see the screen grow massively. Not as revolutionary as Avatar, but superb graphics for sure. Look for some VFX oscars on this one.

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Who’s to Blame for the Dolby Ripoff?

April 13, 2010 at 12:47 am | Posted in Audio, Digital, Dolby, Movies, science, TV | Leave a comment
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Dolby Digital. You know that term don’t you? You see it at the theatres, on your DVD boxes and DVD labels, on the Home-Theater-In-A-Box that you bought for some holiday or just before the “Big Football Thing”.

Oh yes, the thrill of surround sound. Helicopters flying all around, spraying bullets. Explosions that wake the neighbors because you haven’t figured out how to turn on the late-night-mode yet…hooking up all the wires…but that’s a different rant. Continue Reading Who’s to Blame for the Dolby Ripoff?…

Modern 3D Formats – What’s the Difference?

January 20, 2010 at 1:00 am | Posted in Movies, Photography, Theater/Theatre | 1 Comment
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Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. I’m talking about modern 3d Cinema here, not the old-school stuff with the different colored lenses, nor some DVD you are trying to watch on your home television.

Modern 3d, a la Avatar, is done with a little more finesse nowadays. 3D nowadays is usually done with polarized lenses, not colored jobbies. Yes, polarized, like a camera filter or those cool fishing glasses that let you see into the water. Same idea. Every company has a slightly different take on it…this is how patent lawyers stay in business.

The differences are in the details.

Real-D uses a circular polarization. That gives the benefit of being able to maintain the third-dimension illusion if you tilt your head. It’s digital. It uses one projector.  Movies can be transmitted to the theater, or sent on esy to transport and store materials. That means its relatively cheap to upgrade a theater to incorporate. It also means that a theater must use a silver screen (as opposed to current tradition of white) for the best effect, otherwise too much light gets lost and the movie gets dark. The big advantage to us is: it’s sharp. No dust bunnies on the film, as there is no film. The disadvantage is, its just a bit higher resolution than your HDTV and its way bigger.

Traditional IMAX…uses really big film. 70mm film, but it is shown sideways as opposed to vertical, so it has a massive area. It is 15 perforations wide, as opposed to the 5-wide it would be if it was vertical. See…BIG. That means BIG Screens (5 or more stories high and 7 or more stories wide). That also means big equipment like forklifts and specially trained personnel to work all the fancy gizmos in the projection booth. Of course, that means big overhead expenses – hence big ticket prices. Disadvantages to the audience, besides high prices,  are: you can’t tilt your head and maintain the illusion. If your theater uses fancy electronic shutter glasses (not sure any still do) they are bulky (although cool from a techie standpoint). Seating is different than what you are used to. Your ankle will be at the level of the head in front of you…steep seating angles, a disadvantage if you are in a wheelchair or are mobility impaired. The advantage of IMAX? It’s BIG. It has totally awesome uncompressed audio tracks pumped thru massive multi-channel surround systems. Totally immersive.  It’s on film. Resolution is NOT a problem.

Multiplex IMAX (referred to by some as minimax or LieMax) is a  new creation. Some are digital, some are true IMAX film. The system is designed to retrofit multiplex and mall theatres.  The screens are NOT massive like traditional IMAX. The seating is somewhere between your normal theater and the highly-raked traditional IMAX. The price is probably more than a competing 3D format across the hall, maybe as much as a traditional IMAX. If its a digital IMAX, it will use 2 projectors, rather than one. This may be brighter than the competitors in theory, but has some drawbacks in actual practice if things aren’t “just so”. Still can’t tilt your head, due to the linear polarized glasses IMAX likes so much.

Dolby 3D: Similar in concept to REAL-D, with some minor technical differences…you can look up more details yourself if you really care to. Keep this in mind…Dolby likes to patent processes. They have a certain way of doing things. Those things have a way of sticking for the long haul. Tape recorders ended up with Dolby C and/or B, your A/V receivers at home have Dolby Pro Logic or Dolby Digital, or those plus Dolby-“whatever”. They become the standard in a lot of media applications! James Cameron used this 3D format at the Avatar world premier (although tweaked a bit from what you might find at your local multiplex). ‘Nuff said.

Xpand 3D: Don’t know what to say here. Haven’t seen it. The Hollywood Arclight Dome (a favorite amongst movie buffs) is using it for Avatar with mixed reviews. Not sure how astute or trustworthy those reviewers are. Word has it that Disney, PIXAR and ILM have this sytem in their screening rooms. I wouldn’t count these guys out just yet. I’m sure Lucas is working on a way to try to one-up Cameron…so…keep your eyes on these guys. Keep in mind that REAL-D has an immense foothold on the majority of current theatres…but that’s not to say that this one won’t sneak into some “premier” locations…heck its going thru a trial by fire at the Dome as we speak.

Digital 3d: Anybody’s guess as to what’s driving this generic stuff. One local theatre chain here is using all-digital Barco projection equipment that is getting rave reviews and the theatre tells me the 3D system there is made by Imagemaster. Seems to be a REAL-D-like system made by a small upstart company and is cheaper than any of the “big names”.

So, now that you have a primer…go see Avatar, again. See it differently than you saw it last time. Back in the day Lucas marketed THX with “The Audience Is Listening”…well…when it comes to 3D formats nowadays, the Difference is in the Details. The levels of brightness and immersiveness are something you have to experience for yourself. I personally love traditional IMAX with its ultra big, ultra bright film, ultra-enveloping-sound but I really enjoyed the way REAL-D drew me into the film, rather than thrust it out at me.

Avatar – This Changes Everything

December 21, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Posted in Movies, Review | Leave a comment
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Consumers, film buffs, home theatre aficionados; take note. You can bet Hollywood has. James Cameron has produced a “game-changer”. Yes, he also wrote it and directed it – but all in all its more of a production.

What’s a game-changer? Star Wars IV A New Hope (the first, original one was). Jurassic Park was. The Abyss (also a Cameron film) was to a limited extent – the extent that there was a lot of cool stuff filmed underwater. Star wars changed the game with never-before-seen visual FX (light sabers and blasters come to mind) and created a standard for audio presentation (now known as THX) unlike anything the world had heard before. Jurassic Park did it with lifelike dinosaurs that scared the **** outta you and ushered in a new audio era (known as DTS) among other things.

Avatar does it with…3D. Not your normal 3D. Revolutionary 3D. Game changing 3D. Believable 3D. Real-D, IMAX 3D, Dolby 3D…it’s available worldwide in a number of 3D formats…take your pick. Each has ins and outs…but behind them all lies a revolutionary camera system developed by Sony at the request of Cameron. Its not a film camera – but an HD video camera on steroids. It can use video standards, or film standards for how many frames per second it can capture. It’s light and mobile and can be mounted just about anywhere. It fits on a Steadicam mount. It has two lenses that can move independently like human eyes. It films in 3D. I don’t know all the specs but suffice it to say after seeing Avatar tonight (in Real D)…IT KICKS ASS.

There’s other ultra-cool tech that Cameron developed/employed here like real-time viewing of green screen stuff, where the actors are being filmed with green screens and he can see them in the virtual world onscreen as he films it. There is the cool underwater photography he is so good at. There are CGI worlds created that only he could visualize (or artists could draw because they have seen his underwater documentaries) containing amazing bioluminescent flora and fauna.

Apparently, James also knows when to say when. After all, he’s writing, directing, and producing – all while revolutionizing…sometimes you gotta delegate. Need a creature designed to meet your vision? Call Stan Winston Studios. Need excellent audio? Skywalker Sound is the place, they can master in Dolby and/or DTS. Need visual FX that are game-changing? Yep. Industrial Light & Magic. Got a few other things like makeup, design, models, weapons and such that need some awesome creation and detailing? WETA.  Wanna show your 3D creation to as many people as possible?, Turn to RealD. Need to show it to cinephiles REALLY REALLY BIG…let IMAX handle that. No stone is left unturned. All the bases are covered.

Look for my reviews on the optical tech behind this shortly. Then we will cover audio stuff, if anyone cares. I’m sorry to say I didn’t catch who was behind craft services during this…you’ll have to look elsewhere.

In the meantime – just remember – all the 3D formats are propietary – so don’t bother to bring along the glasses from the last film to your next viewing…I know Avatar has a “green message” behind it all – but it apparently does not trickle down to eyewear.

IMAX THEATRE ARIZONA MILLS – Theatre Information

August 10, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Posted in Movies, Review, Theater/Theatre, Tickets | 2 Comments
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This is the only “true” giant screen IMAX theatre in the Phoenix area that shows Hollywood Blockbuster-type films (IMAX DMR films to those “in the know”). The others are either at the science museum (showing traditional IMAX films shot in IMAX format) or the current trendy multiplex versions which aren’t much bigger than a standard movie screen. You know the ones – LieMAX screens, or Fake IMAX as many like to call them.

This is the real deal, though. It’s a standalone theatre (although it is in a mall), and of course it is reserved seating (tickets can be purchased online). Yes, it has giant speakers hanging from the ceilings (they need dusting badly). Yes it is a rectangular screen showing 15/70. No, it does not have the nanoseam screen.

The caveats are, it’s not the most upscale theatre you’ve been to. The snack selection sucks, the popcorn may be very very stale, and you may feel like you need a sanitizer wipe after leaving the restrooms.

Tickets are pricey, as usual with IMAX. OF course the sound and on-screen visuals are amazing. The rest of the “experience” may leave you heading off to cleaner pastures.

Let’s hope they clean up their act and let new generations of fans learn what a REAL IMAX experience is supposed to be like.

UPDATE 1/19/10Harkins has bought this theatre as of December 2009, in time to show Avatar. Word has it, they will be remodeling the lobby, bathrooms, etc but NOT changing the projection system. They will continue to show TRUE IMAX 15perf-70mm FILMS. I just saw Avatar here, and it was good. Staff was better prepared for the crowd, friendly and generally “on top” of things. Looks like Dan Harkins is helping out us movie junkies. He probably owes us that, after tearing down the original Cine Capri and then failing to put in 70mm projectors when they rebuilt.

BEWARE FAKE IMAX!

May 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Posted in Movies | Leave a comment
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Aziz is Bored – REBLOG THE FUCK OUT OF THIS. WARNING: AMC theaters are running FAKE IMAX’s and charging $5 extra for a slightly bigger screen. Boycott IMAX, AMC, and Regal. Don’t let them fool you..

Well, Aziz has brought to the public’s attention what I have been complaining to my friends about forever. Fake IMAX sucks. And those blockbusters you are watching on them are rarely shot in IMAX format. They are converted to it, digitally. It’s similar to the way your home theatre equipment takes your old VHS tapes and “upconverts” them to display at a higher resolution on your big-screen TV or projector. In the “LieMAX” or fake IMAX format this is projected on a rectangular screen similar to your widescreen TV, using twin DLP projectors. In REAL IMAX this digital conversion gets printed on 70mm film and is projected on a square screen. Blockbuster movies such as Star Trek that are not shot with IMAX cameras will not utilize the upper and lower parts of a real IMAX squarte screen. It will letterbox, just like a standard4:3  TV. Movies that incorporate actual IMAX camera footage, such as The Dark Knight, will project letterboxed until the actual IMAX footage displays, filling the entire screen.

Hey, I have nothing against upconversion. I’ve been mesmerized by Faroudja video processors since I got my first laserdisc player. But I’m also a proponent of Real 70mm film, too. If you lived in Phoenix back in the days of the Original Cine Capri and got to see Blade Runner or Star Wars in 70mm mag-stripe – you understand what I mean. If you have never seen a 70mm film other than your multiplex fake IMAX…you need to.

The point Aziz and many others are noticing and complaining about is this is not the traditional IMAX experience. The screen is not ginormous, they don’t do the cool spotlight stuff showing you the speakers (44 of them) and their locations. They don’t warn you that motion sickness can be prevented by putting your head between your legs temporarily. Real IMAX does that.

Real IMAX is supposed to be 6-8 stories tall. Sometimes its projected on a dome which is called OMNIMAX (domed screens have some drawbacks when presenting traditional movies like Star Trek – it will warp the normally rectangular frame). The screen is supposed to be bigger than your field of view…that’s what can induce the motion sickness.

So, here’s what you do if you have never seen REAL IMAX before – go down to your local science museum and watch one! That’s where they usually are, although they can be found in City Centers, standalones, casinos – all kinds of places. But, if you have a decent science museum in your city, you should have REAL IMAX.

It probably won’t be showing Batman, or Star Trek or any other DMR film, but trust me…just pay the 12 bucks to see anything. Most IMAX films are about 40 minutes long, not 2 hours. They are expensive to film, so they are expensive to watch. Just watch. You can watch grass grow in IMAX and be totally thrilled to have experienced it…that’s where their tagline “the IMAX experience” came from. It used to be an experience! Still is, at the right place! However, as Aziz points out in his blog – AMC and Regal are not the right places.

Oh, and if you are in San Diego – the Reuben H Fleet Science Center has an awesome IMAX, with the newest nanoseam technology screen IMAX has…I haven’t been there in 20 years, but with the new technology screen – its on my list to do this summer.

Stop The Remake!

September 10, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Posted in Cult Classic, Movies, Politics | Leave a comment
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Stop the Remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show


MTV is trying to cash in on a cult classic. Don’t let it happen! Preserve the integrity (sic) of the original! Sign the petition!

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