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Tyre-kicker's guide

IMAX enhanced

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IMAX enhanced

Now you can bring IMAX cinema entertainment and excitement into your own home

Who is IMAX?

IMAX has been a pioneer in motion-picture technology since 1968, specialising in immersive and large-format film presentations. The company put the ‘big’ into big-screen, and over the years has expanded into a global operation, with more than 1,500 IMAX theatres in over 80 countries.

No-one ever forgets their first visit to an IMAX cinema, with its massive, mind-blowing images, awe-inspiring levels of detail, and heart-pounding surround sound. Now, IMAX hopes to give consumers some of that experience in the comfort their own homes with IMAX Enhanced.

What is IMAX Enhanced?

Launched in 2018, IMAX Enhanced is a partnership between IMAX and audio specialist DTS. It offers consumers a chance to enjoy the company’s signature sight and sound experience in their home, and is essentially a certification process that encompasses three key aspects: unique content; optimised playback; and certified devices.

Unique content

IMAX Enhanced uses content that has either been shot on IMAX cameras or converted and optimised for IMAX cinemas using the company’s proprietary digital remastering technology. This latter process is called Digital Media Remastering (DMR), and it carefully reduces any noise or grain under the supervision of the original content creators.

IMAX also uses different aspect ratios compared to regular films, although which ratio will depend on how the IMAX content was created. For productions that use 70mm IMAX film stock, the aspect ratio is 1.44:1, while movies formatted for IMAX use 1.90:1. If the film was shot with multiple cameras, the aspect ratio will open out at the top and bottom for the IMAX sequences.

When it comes to audio, IMAX has partnered with DTS to deliver the immersive audio and chest-pounding bass associated with its cinemas. IMAX Enhanced uses a proprietary version of DTS:X to deliver a soundstage beyond anything you’ve experienced at home before. It uses the original IMAX mix to deliver deeper bass and a wider dynamic range compared to regular soundtracks.

Optimised playback

The IMAX Enhanced content is optimised to deliver the highest quality playback on today’s state-of-the-art display devices. This means a resolution of 4K, combined with HDR to ensure content has the highest brightness and widest colours. In some cases, IMAX Enhanced also includes HDR10+ with added dynamic metadata for a more accurate HDR experience.

The IMAX Enhanced content includes a digital flag that automatically tells certified devices to go into their IMAX Mode, thus ensuring what you’re watching and hearing matches the content creator’s intentions. In the case of TVs or projectors this means settings designed to optimise the performance and replicate the picture quality of a Hollywood reference monitor.

When it comes to audio, an IMAX Enhanced certified device detects the digital flag in the DTS:X soundtrack, and processes accordingly. IMAX recommends a speaker layout of at least 5.1.4 channels, although DTS suggests a 7.2.4-channel layout would be even better. Given the emphasis on low frequency effects, a subwoofer that can go down to 20Hz is also important.

Certified devices

Since IMAX Enhanced is designed to deliver a superior audio and video experience, only the best products  will do. The IMAX Enhanced certification programme requires display and audio devices to reach specific performance targets set by IMAX, DTS and Hollywood experts.

These IMAX Enhanced-certified TVs, projectors, processors, receivers, soundbars, and speakers undergo hundreds of individual tests to ensure they’re capable of reaching the necessary video and audio standards, as well as achieving the required levels of performance.

In terms of IMAX Enhanced displays, there are certified TVs from Sony, Philips, Hisense, and TCL, along with projectors from Sony. On the audio side of things, there are processors from Arcam, Anthem, McIntosh, Storm Audio, and Trinnov, plus receivers from Arcam, Anthem, Denon, JBL, Marantz, and Onkyo. Finally there are soundbars from LG and Philips, plus speakers from Polk.

Where can I find IMAX Enhanced content?

The availability of IMAX Enhanced content has been gradually increasing over the last few years, although the first releases were a series of IMAX documentaries on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray. There have been additional disc releases since, including titles such as Zombieland: Double Tap, Bad Boys for Life, and Jumanji: The Next Level.

More recently Sony has offered IMAX Enhanced content on its Bravia Core service, Paramount includes titles on various streaming services, and Rakuten TV supports IMAX Enhanced on its streaming service in Europe. However the biggest supporter is Disney+, which offers a number of Marvel titles with images and aspect ratios optimised for IMAX Enhanced.

To get the full benefit of IMAX Enhanced content you’ll need certified display and audio devices, but since the format is backwards compatible, you could gradually build up your IMAX Enhanced system.

According to IMAX, “when playing back IMAX Enhanced content on both certified display and audio devices, the sum of the whole is greater than its parts – creating the most premium in-home entertainment experience anywhere.”

So while you might not have an IMAX cinema near you, there’s nothing stoping you from bringing that big-screen and immersive-audio experience home with IMAX Enhanced.