The folks at that giant-screen movie company known as IMAX, used the recent custom electronics “CEDIA” Expo to unveil a new certification program designed to bring the IMAX experience home.

Dubbed IMAX Enhanced, the new certification program focuses not only on delivering the big-screen high-resolution video experience seen in IMAX theaters to the home theater, but the immersive surround sound experience as well.

The company has teamed with DTS to lend its expertise on the sound end of the experience. It also presents a nice one/two tandem to go up against 800-pound-gorilla Dolby, which has similar standards it implements through participation in its Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos 3D surround sound technologies. Similarly, THX has its various standards of certification for home theater audio/video gear.

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IMAX said it wants to “offer consumers a new level of quality in immersive sight and sound experiences for the home” and has thus developed a program designed to use specially produced IMAX Enhanced software that will playback through supporting IMAX Certified gear.

The program will not mean IMAX Enhanced equipment will be incompatible with non-IMAX Enhanced products, however, certified products will be required to enjoy the benefits of IMAX Enhanced content.

This content is engineered to deliver images and sound with improved AV fidelity. The program focuses on four key pieces, including: special “remastered” video, an alternative aspect ratio, a special version of the DTS:X 3D surround sound system and IMAX-exclusive content.

In launching the program, IMAX said that Sony Pictures and Paramount have signed on to support it with the required new content. Sony and Sound United (makers of Denon, Marantz, Definitive, Polk, Classe Audio etc.) are the first of what is hoped will be a large number of companies that will begin to release televisions/projectors and home theater audio gear that conform to the IMAX Certification requirements.

For content, IMAX Certification will focus on 4K and HDR Audio as well as a “special variant” of DTS:X object based surround sound.

On the video side, IMAX will look to significantly reduce video noise, which can be annoyingly visible on larger, high-resolution screens. IMAX Enhanced content will carry this improvement based on special IMAX-developed noise reduction technology that keeps images clear of excessive grain, low-light noise etc.

However, IMAX said that any changes made to the original content will be done only with the blessing of the director.

Because IMAX is famous for its large, odd-shaped aspect ratio, the Enhanced Certification program will center around translating those taller and narrower 1.9:1 and 1.43:1 pictures to typical home screens. For the home, the IMAX Enhanced image will feature a more square-like aspect ratio that preserves a larger portion of the image than it would if made to common to the 2.4:1 theatrical aspect ratio.

To gain certification, participating companies will submit equipment for certification and will need to pass the so-far unannounced performance criteria that IMAX Enhanced program participants will determined as desirable for program conformance. So for, it is expected that such gear will encompass the typical home theater elements including: TVs, projectors, receivers and other A/V amps and source devices, but others may be added as required.

Products, which carry the IMAX Enhanced logo, will include an IMAX mode. The equipment will detect supporting IMAX Ehanced content when its played and automatically switch the component into the appropriate IMAX mode. This mode will adjust picture and sound settings that have been pre-determined as the ideal levels for the product in question.


By Greg Tarr


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