IMAX Enhanced: Is It the New Standard for Home Cinemas?
In our recent blog reporting on this year’s CES show, we mentioned the launch of IMAX Enhanced, but what exactly is it? Well details are starting to appear.
As most of you will know, IMAX is renowned for being arguably the best cinema experience at your local multiplex with its giant screens, improved audio and alternative aspect ratios. IMAX Enhanced aims to bring that premium experience to your home’s cinema room, media room or living room.
How can IMAX Enhanced make My Home Cinema Better?
IMAX Enhanced was launched in December last year and is both a new licensing and certification program for home entertainment equipment.
The consistent high-quality experience provided in every IMAX theatre around the world has positioned the IMAX brand as the ‘go to’ for those looking for premium entertainment experiences.
To qualify and carry the IMAX Enhanced logo, the highest-end TVs, sound bars, A/V receivers must meet carefully-prescribed performance requirements established by IMAX, DTS and Hollywood’s leading colour experts to create a consistent and higher bar for image and sound specs on premium devices.
By marking home cinema equipment with the IMAX Enhanced logo, IMAX are adding their stamp of approval to what they consider to be the best performing AV products.
The IMAX Enhanced logo, already starting to appear on some 4K Blu-Ray disks, means that the content has an expanded aspect ratio and immersive sound (other immersive sound formats like DTS:X and, more commonly, Dolby Atmos are already featured on many Ultra HD Blu-Rays; and DTS:X is the core codec behind the immersive sound format used in IMAX Enhanced).
IMAX digitally re-mastered content for the home environment will, it is claimed, provide the sharpest 4K HDR images and powerful, immersive sound as the filmmaker intended.
IMAX are designing an ‘IMAX Mode’ for the enhanced devices that will be meticulously calibrated to play digitally re-mastered content to deliver the best viewing and listening experience on that device. This advanced process accurately reduces noise and grain under the filmmaker’s guidance to best optimise the content for a much higher quality, higher brightness 4K HDR display format. Without this technology, high-dynamic range content can sometimes look worse than what was originally seen and intended by the filmmaker due to excessive noise and grain in the film.
How similar is IMAX Enhanced to your local cinema?
Well you’ll start to see more use of the IMAX expanded aspect ratio. The majority of films in IMAX cinemas use the 1.90:1 aspect ratio, which also works well in the home because with 1.90:1, there is only a very small amount of letterboxing on a 16:9 (1.78) display. At most, it will fill the 1.78:1 TV screen, eliminating letterboxing entirely. This is likely to drive a shift from 2.35:1 to 16:9 ratio projection screens in home cinemas—something that Cyberhomes have been advocating for some time, especially when motorised masking is not installed.
For optimal playback of IMAX Enhanced content, the recommended speaker layout for an IMAX Enhanced system is 7.2.4 with seven main speakers (left, centre, right, left surround, right surround, left rear and right rear), two subwoofers and four height speakers. 5.1.4 is the minimum layout for IMAX Enhanced AV receivers and processors.
The AV industry has seen many standards and formats come and go over the years. Some have succeeded, others like HD-DVD, and to some extent 3D, have paled into obscurity.
Timing wise, there are more 4K HDR displays than ever, making it a good time to release a standard that capitalises on IMAX’s system of high-resolution cameras and film formats that use bigger, brighter, higher resolution projectors boasting higher contrast.
How you get IMAX Enhanced in your Home Cinema Installation?
IMAX Enhanced TVs and projectors must be 4K HDR, and to get IMAX Enhanced audio, the AV processor must carry the IMAX Enhanced logo.
It is aimed at home cinema enthusiasts that are looking for the premium entertainment experience in the home and are prepared to commit the budget necessary to achieve it. If you already have a premium home theatre then you’ll need to be considering replacing all of your existing equipment with IMAX Enhanced-certified alternatives.
Fortunately, you don’t necessarily need to replace all of your equipment at once in order to see a benefit. For example, if you already have a DTS:X capable AV processor and immersive speaker array in your media room, you may choose initially to just replace your display to get the IMAX Enhanced image experience.
Will It Catch On?
That’s a good question. As with most technologies and formats, content is king. If IMAX Enhanced isn’t supported by filmmakers and the studios then it is unlikely to achieve the necessary momentum to be supported by all the equipment manufacturers or justify the extra investment for a small number of optimised movies (premium brands like Sony, Denon, Integra and Trinnov have already announced their support). The next 12 to 18 months will surely see it either sink or swim; but we certainly support endeavours to improve the potential of the home cinema experience.