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Star Wars... a rant (no spoilers)

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Todd TerryStar Wars... a rant (no spoilers)
by on Dec 21, 2015 at 4:25:45 pm

Hey kids...

Ok, this has pretty much nothing to do with business or marketing, but wanted to rant to my friends in here. Ok, I'll ask "Is this good business practice"? right off the bat justify the post.

Well... we went to see Star Wars last night.

Good movie. I think. I believe J.J. Abrams did a pretty great job with it. But it was such a horrible viewing experience that I can't tell for sure.

We went to see it at our city's IMAX theatre, at the US Space & Rocket Center... supposedly only one of 15 IMAX theaters in the country showing it in 70mm. Now, I've seen IMAX movies there in the distant past, but I've never seen a "regular" movie there.

Never again.

To start with, I don't get it. Unless I'm missing something, the only reason to boast about a movie in an IMAX theatre is that if the movie was shot in IMAX. Am I wrong about that? If not, aren't you just seeing a regular movie on an IMAX screen? Isn't that just sewing an Armani lable in a suit from Men's Wearhouse?

I'm (surprisingly) woefully ignorant about any tech specs of the Star Wars movie (usually I keep up with all that, but I haven't on this film), but I know it wasn't shot in IMAX. I don't think it was shot in 70mm, either. And considering it was so CGI heavy it was no doubt DI'd and finshed at 4k, max (someone correct me if I'm wrong). So... isn't blowing it up and creating a 70mm horizontal IMAX print just pointless? That doesn't make it better, clearer, or increase the resolution in any way.

Here's the kicker... there are two kinds of IMAX venues... the more common design which is more-or-less like a conventional theatre, and the "classic" IMAX with the 180° semi-hemisphical dome screen where you are bascially sitting in half of a gigantic ball.

This theatre is the "classic" dome kind....

That makes sense for the specialty and space movies that they usually show at this museum. But in this case, it rendered the movie totally unwatchable. Imagine watching television, but sitting with your face eight inches away from a 60" plasma screen, while wearing reverse-fisheye glasses. And none of that is any exaggeration.

Even if I tilted my head back as far as I could and rolled my eyes all the way up, I still could not see the top of the frame edge. Turn my head all the way to the left and I could see the left frame edge... same for the right. And we had seats only a couple down from the central projector pod, which optically should be almost dead center in the theatre. And of course everything except the very center of the screen is horribly horribly distorted.

I just can't believe anyone would show a film this way. And I'm darn sure that no one at Lucasfilm, Disney, or Bad Robot wants the movie to be seen this way.

Am I missing something?


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Matt YapleRe: Star Wars... a rant (no spoilers)
by on Dec 21, 2015 at 6:47:38 pm

Interesting... I saw it in IMAX 3D and enjoyed it quite a bit!

Personally though, I think it may be a good idea to see it first in standard 2D to experience the story. Then perhaps experiment with the other formats.

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Tom SeftonRe: Star Wars... a rant (no spoilers)
by on Dec 22, 2015 at 12:42:21 pm

I think some parts were shot on 65mm, but the majority on 35mm film.

Co-owner at Pollen Studio

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Rich RubaschRe: Star Wars... a rant (no spoilers)
by on Dec 22, 2015 at 4:14:38 pm

47% of all tickets were sold for the 3D version. Not sure about iMax. For me the best part about an iMax theater is the audio NOT the picture. I believe the iMax theaters have the best sound in all theaters I have been in, so if it is sound that I am after, I choose iMax. Odd, I know. Also the animated 3D features look pretty spectacular with all that peripheral vision taken up in the eye.

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage

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Todd TerryRe: Star Wars... a rant (no spoilers)
by on Dec 22, 2015 at 5:06:13 pm

Well in my case it was absolutely unwatchable. Totally and completely.

Hopefully those who watch it on the more conventional IMAX screens will have a better experience, but if your only choice is the domed IMAX surround screens then don't even chance it... it's terrible.

I did read that sometimes people are not seeing what they think they are paying for... if you saw the 3D version in an IMAX theatre, you were indeed seeing 3D but you were not seeing 70mm. Disney did not strike 70mm prints of the 3D version... so you're actually just seeing it in an IMAX theatre, not watching an IMAX-sized print.

But as I said previously... it doesn't matter what gauge of film you blow it up to, it matters what you start with.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Tim WilsonRe: Star Wars... a rant (no spoilers)
by on Dec 22, 2015 at 5:12:05 pm

Just noting for the record - this isn't actually a Star Wars rant, but an IMAX rant, right? :-)

[Rich Rubasch] "47% of all tickets were sold for the 3D version. Not sure about iMax. For me the best part about an iMax theater is the audio NOT the picture. "

Record-breaking IMAX numbers, to say the least: $48 million on 677 screens, beating Jurassic World's $41m. I think the reason that the gap isn't wider is that there's still a finite amount of screens to scale up to, whereas you can show Star Wars on every single digital screen in the world with the flick of a switch.

But to Todd's opening point, yeah, for the classic Science Museum dome model, this is not a good fit at all. Those really DEMAND native IMAX footage.

For more typically standalone IMAX theaters, though, non-IMAX footage works quite well. Big is big, and I couldn't agree more Rick, the audio is the thing.

I have found the letterbox effect in these with non-IMAX footage to sometimes still be kind of annoying for live action though, no doubt about it, though.

The place I've found the sweet spot is in the multiplex version of IMAX, the IMAX DMR (Digital ReMastering) screens. When those were first introduced, people howled in outrage because they weren't "true" IMAX in the sense of the 60-foot high screen or what have you...but when taken in its specific context as a branding exercise, it works for what it is: much bigger, brighter screens, and massively improved sound.

I think one reason that the howling about this has died down over the years is that big screen experiences have been getting bigger, and these (let's call them more accurately) IMAX-flavored DMR screens are by and large doing it right.

btw, I highly recommend the 3D version. VERY much in keeping with the flavor of the thing, and exceptionally organic. As subtle yet distinctive as a soft-edged wipe.

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Mark SuszkoRe: Star Wars... a rant (no spoilers)
by on Dec 23, 2015 at 12:00:39 am

And I dare you not to reach up and pinch the Star Destroyer.

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Mike CohenRe: Star Wars... a rant (no spoilers)
by on Jan 12, 2016 at 3:31:14 am

Some sequences were shot in IMAX - the link has some movie stills if you have not seen any of the trailers or the movie

But not all. IMAX (digital) is the poor-man's IMAX and as Tim said, if it is not actual IMAX film like you would see at a science museum on a school field trip, it is IMAX-like.

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David SikesRe: Star Wars... a rant (no spoilers)
by on Jan 14, 2016 at 2:40:18 pm

I ended up skipping the show at the Space & Rocket Center because of this—the dome is a pain to watch a normal movie on!

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