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We consider three film formats to be "large-format" or "giant-screen." They are: 




Originally developed by the Imax Corporation in 1970, this format uses 70mm film run through the projector horizontally, so that the width of the film is the height of the frame. In all other LF and conventional formats, the film runs vertically, so that the width of the film is the width of the frame.


Each frame is 15 perforations wide, hence 15/70. The area of the frame is about 52mm high by 70mm wide (2 inches by 2.75 inches). 


The 15/70 frame is almost nine times larger than the conventional 35mm frame (below). It is slightly less than twice as large as 8/70.


Imax Corp. was long the exclusive maker of 15/70 projectors and cameras, although a few other manufacturers briefly made 15/70 systems.





Produced exclusively by Japan's Goto Optical Manufacturing for its planetarium customers, 10/70 was optimized for projection onto a dome. Known as Astrovision, 10/70 is found in theaters in Japan, China, India, and Bangladesh. Virtually all films presented in 10/70 theaters were originated in 15/70 and printed to 10/70.





The 8/70 format runs vertically, with a frame that is about 38mm high and 52mm wide (1.5 inches by 2 inches.) Because 8/70 uses about half as much film per minute as 15/70, shooting in 8/70 is less expensive and prints are about half the cost of 15/70 prints.


Many manufacturers produce 8/70 projectors.



Conventional film formats




Rarely seen in theaters now, this was once the premiere format for high-quality conventional film production and exhibition. Frame area is about 23mm high and 52mm wide (0.9 inches by 2 inches ).




The standard format formerly used in nearly all conventional movie theaters before 2008. The frame size is about 17.5mm high by 21mm wide (0.7 inches by 0.83 inches).


Digital formats


Digital systems have begun replacing film projection in many conventional multiplex theaters, and in some giant-screen theaters as well.


4K Digital


Three manufacturers are now providing digital cinema projectors using Texas Instruments' 4K DLP Cinema chip: Barco (top), Christie (middle), and NEC (bottom). 4K systems have been widely accepted by the GS industry as suitable replacements for 15/70 film. See article here. 


Barco and Christie offer laser-illuminated versions of their 4K digital projectors. 

Dolby VIsion


Dolby Laboratories has partnered with Christie Digital to develop Dolby Vision, a high-dynamic-range (HDR) projection system with 500 times the contrast ratio of other digital projectors: 1,000,000 to 1, compared to 2,000:1. The system uses two Christie 4K laser projectors and puts out an image with luminance of 31 foot-Lamberts, more than twice as high as conventional projection (14 fL) and much higher than IMAX (22 fL). 


Dolby Vision is part of the company's Dolby Cinema package, which includes the Dolby Atmos sound system and special theater treatments to reduce ambient light and enhance comfort.


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IMAX with Laser


In 2015, Imax Corporation began the rollout of its next-generation digital projection system, which uses two custom-designed 4K laser-illuminated projectors, based in part on patents purchased from Kodak. It has an aspect ratio of 1.43, achieved with a vertical anamorphic stretch of the standard 1.9-ratio 4K image. It is designed to replace 15/70 film projection in the largest IMAX theaters, with screens over 80 feet (24 meters) wide.


IMAX digital


Imax Corporation introduced its first digital projection system in 2008, using two Christie 2K projectors and proprietary image processing. With an aspect ratio of 1.9, this system was designed to be installed in existing multiplex auditoriums.


Other premium digital systems


Several major North American cinema chains are now offering premium digital theaters that offer most of the characteristics of IMAX digital theaters: dual and/or high-output projectors, larger screens, enhanced sound systems, and in many cases, premium seats.


These systems include:


Carmike Big DDD

Cinemark XD

Regal RPX

Pictured: 2K digital projectors from Christie (top) and Barco (bottom).


Photo of Grand Tetons by James Hyder. 2002 by Cinergetics, LLC.








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Updated June 14, 2019