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IMAX 3D, IMAX 2D, and IMAX 70mm: Exploring the Differences

IMAX 3D, IMAX 2D, and IMAX 70mm: Exploring the Differences

Having good screen quality and experience while watching a movie is very important. Everyone wants great screen quality when watching a movie. There’re different theatre screens that give you different experiences while watching a movie.

You’re undoubtedly already aware of how different the experience is from watching the same movie on a regular theatre screen if you have ever seen an IMAX movie. There is much more to IMAX displays than just their size advantage over most conventional movie theatre screens.

IMAX theatre screens come in 3D, 2D, and 70mm. You must be wondering what exactly is the difference between these screens. To know what is the difference between these screens, continue reading.

What Is IMAX?

A proprietary system of high-definition cameras, film formats, projectors, and cinemas called IMAX is distinguished by its extremely huge screens, tall aspect ratios (about either 1.43:1 or 1.90:1), and steep stadium seating. 

The initial IMAX cinema projection standards were created in the late 1960s and early 1970s in Canada by the co-founders of what would become known as the IMAX Corporation (formed in September 1967 as Multiscreen Corporation, Limited), Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroitor, Robert Kerr, and William C. Shaw.

The huge format as it was initially intended is IMAX GT. Contrary to most ordinary film projectors, it uses very large screens that measure 18 by 24 meters (59 by 79 feet) and runs the film horizontally so that the visual width can be bigger than the width of the film stock.

A 70/15 format is what is used. It is only utilized in dome theatres and purpose-built theatres, and many installations are restricted to the projection of high-end, brief documentaries. 

The significant costs associated with developing and maintaining the special projectors and facilities suggested making a number of concessions in the ensuing years.

The IMAX SR and MPX systems were launched in 1998 and 2004, respectively, to cut expenses. Although much of the richness of the GT experience was lost, smaller projectors were employed to adapt existing theatres in order to make IMAX available to multiplexes and existing theatres. 

Later, in 2008 and 2015, the IMAX Digital 2K and IMAX with Laser 4K were introduced, however, they were still constrained by the original 15/70 film’s original 70-megapixel equivalent resolution.

Both of these digital-only technologies can be used to upgrade already-built theatres. Due to the vast area of a dome screen, the Laser technology has only been used to retrofit entire dome installations since 2018 with little success.

What Is IMAX?

IMAX 3D vs. 3D

The enormous circular screens at IMAX 3D theatres provide the audience with realistic motion pictures. The term “IMAX” stands for “Image Maximum,” a motion picture film format and a set of cinema projection specifications created by the Canadian business IMAX Corporation.

Compared to other 3D theatres, IMAX is able to show images that are far larger and more detailed. The IMAX 3D theatres use specialist projectors to produce 3D visuals that are brighter and clearer.

A special silver-coated IMAX 3D screen is used to simultaneously project two independent pictures that make up an IMAX 3D movie.

In these theatres, the perspectives are divided; specifically, the IMAX 3D glasses divide the visuals so that the left and right eyes each perceive a different viewpoint.

The geometry of the theatre is designed in such a way that visitors may see the complete image or movie from any angle. Since their first in 1915, 3D theatres have come back and gained popularity.

The 3D theatres are standard three-dimensional theatres that exclusively utilize 3D stereoscopic glasses. These glasses let users watch the images from any angle while adding authentic visual and motion elements to the scenes.

The majority of 3D glasses include polarised lenses that take up pictures that are alternately shown onto the screen but slightly off-center. When watched in 3D theatres, 3D films appear lifelike.

The 3D and polarisation principles underlie how 3D theatres operate. A movie that increases the illusion of depth perception is called a 3D movie.

The 2000s saw an increase in the popularity of 3D movies, which culminated in the unparalleled success of the 3D screenings of the movie Avatar in December 2009 and January 2010.

Comparatively speaking, an IMAX 3D is better than a standard 3D theatre since it offers both 3D effects and higher-quality pictures.

In contrast to the 3D screen, which is a regular theatre screen that must be watched through 3D stereoscopic glasses, the IMAX 3D has a large circular screen that delivers the full motion and visual impression of the show.

The visual and movie quality varies amongst theatres as well; for example, the IMAX 3D is renowned for offering an enhanced and cutting-edge audio-video quality.

When it comes to 3D theatres, they offer realistic motion and viewing effects in addition to their high audio-visual standards.

In contrast to IMAX 3D, which gives viewers the impression that they are physically present in the relevant scene of the picture or movie, 3D theatres show pictures that appear to be moving toward the spectator.

FeaturesIMAX 3D3D
Full formsImage Maximum 3D3 Dimensional
Theatre types Screens offer Dolby audio effects in addition to 3D visual effectsRegular displays, but 3D glasses are required to view the image
Working PrinciplesA polarised lens method is used by IMAX, in which two pictures are projected on the screen slightly off-center from one another using projectors with polarising filtersBy displaying two slightly off-center pictures onto the screen that alternate at imperceptibly fast speeds, 3D uses the idea of the mechanical direction 
Main effects arise due toThe left and right images of the movie are linearly polarised during projection, giving the appearance of 3D depth (each image is meant for each eye)To give the impression of depth when viewing the movie, 3D projection equipment and/or spectacles are employed
Screen typesThis impact is aided by curved screens, closer viewing distances, and brighter visualsTheir screens can produce the effects, but not to the same degree as IMAX 3D
IMAX 3D vs normal 3D
IMAX 3D stands for image maximum 3D
IMAX 3D stands for image maximum 3D

What Is IMAX 2D?

A collection of high-resolution cameras, film formats, projectors, and, yes, movie theatres are all referred to as IMAX.

The phrase “Maximum Image,” which is a good fit given how much, is believed to be the source of the name. It’s simple to identify the 1.43:1 or 1.90:1 tall aspect ratio of IMAX movie monitors. 

There are many different layers of technology involved in an IMAX screening of a movie, both in the making of the movie and in the viewing experience.

This means that in order to experience a movie in actual IMAX, it must be shown on a screen that meets IMAX requirements and is captured with high-resolution IMAX cameras.

Cameras that can capture a bigger frame—typically three times the horizontal resolution of a conventional 35mm film—are used to create IMAX 2D movies. These cameras are able to record video that is very clear and detailed.

Other options include the Panavision Millennium DXL2 and the Sony Venice cameras (6K, 8K, and 16K respectively) (8K). Two ARRI Alexa IMAX cameras were coupled in a rig to produce native 3D for the 2017 film Transformers: The Last Knight. 93% of the footage in the finished movie was IMAX.

The use of high-resolution cameras is just the beginning. Every frame of a movie is processed by IMAX using unique image enhancement techniques, giving you the clearest and sharpest visuals possible—precisely what the maker of the film intended for you to see.

Scaling conventional 35mm films to IMAX is also done using DMR, or Digital Media Remastering. IMAX re-releases of 1995’s Apollo 13 and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones are two well-known examples of this.

What Is IMAX 70mm?

A projection format for “film” is 70mm Imax. Before movies migrated to digital display, it employed a unique film that is four times the size of the 35mm “normal” format.

Therefore, it may be projected larger and has a far greater resolution than a typical (film) projection. As there’s more room for surround soundtracks to be encoded, the audio quality is better than regular 35mm projection.

In addition, because 70mm has a different aspect ratio (1.43) than most theatrical films, which are either 1.85:1 (flat) or 2.39:1, the image is “more square” or “less rectangle” (scope).

Only a portion of the content for movies like “Dark Knight Returns” and “Interstellar” was captured using Imax 70mm cameras, causing some scenes to fill the entire screen while others were letterboxed with black bars to mimic a more conventional (rectangular) cinema screen. 

The “Digital IMAX” format, on the other hand, is a patented method for projecting digital movies utilizing two connected digital projectors (from a computer file, not a reel of actual film).

This enables images that are brighter and (potentially) crisper to be displayed on screens that are typically (but not always) a little larger than those seen in the majority of multiplexes.

Digital IMAX typically outperforms a standard 2K projection, but not by as much as the transition from 70mm to 35mm. Due to the equipment’s extreme weight, noise, cost, and 90-second recording limit, movies that actually shoot scenes in 70mm IMAX are incredibly uncommon.

This is a technology that is sadly possibly on its way gone, as the number of theatres that can project 70mm is fast declining.

 IMAX 70mm Theaters are few in number
There are not much theatres that can project IMAX 70mm

What Is the Difference Between IMAX 3D, IMAX 2D, and IMAX 70mm?

The main distinction between IMAX 2D and IMAX 3D is whether the presentation is “flat” or creates the appearance of depth. IMAX 70mm can display any format. 

Between IMAX Digital, IMAX with Laser, and IMAX 70mm, there is a significant difference. The original IMAX format, IMAX 70mm, uses the largest image area of any film format and is widely regarded as the pinnacle of high-end movie presentation.

However, it has become incredibly rare and is effectively being kept alive by a few powerful filmmakers, including Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan.

IMAX Digital, which debuted in 2008, employs two digital projectors that are perfectly aligned and project images at a resolution of 2K, which is essentially 1080p HD with a little more breadth.

It was first applied to smaller IMAX screens that some have come to refer to as “Liemax,” usual installations in multiplexes where an existing theatre was converted to an IMAX-approved specification that included their projector and sound setups, a slightly larger screen than was previously in the theatre, and occasionally the rearrangement of seating to fill more of the audience’s field of view.

However, many “genuine,” full-sized IMAX cinemas that formerly projected the 70mm version are now using IMAX Digital since the 70mm IMAX film format has essentially become obsolete.

The most recent IMAX technology, IMAX with Laser, was released in 2015. Although not all full-sized IMAX cinemas have yet made the switch from IMAX Digital, it is primarily meant to replace the 70mm technology in those venues.

Although there’s no actual film used, IMAX with Laser is also a digital format. However, the projectors use lasers rather than xenon bulbs and have 4K resolution and high dynamic range capabilities for sharper details, more contrast, and more nuanced colors than IMAX Digital.

Movies in 2D or 3D can be projected in all three formats. Sharpness, detail, and projected image size are the key variations.

IMAX 70mm is still commonly regarded as providing the sharpest and most detailed image, followed by IMAX with Laser and IMAX Digital.

The largest image that an IMAX Digital projector can display has an aspect ratio of 1.90:1, which is much less tall than the original 1.44:1 IMAX ratio. The entire 1.44:1 aspect ratio can be seen on IMAX with Laser. 

Additionally, an IMAX Digital system can only project images that are up to about 70 feet wide; IMAX with Laser is designed for theatres with screens that are over 70 feet wide.

Due to the limits of the projectors, IMAX Digital projection on a full-size IMAX screen is likely to produce a “windowboxed” image, where the image is in the middle of the screen and is surrounded by white space on all four sides. 

The 12-channel “immersive sound” format, which is akin to Dolby Atmos and was also introduced by IMAX with Laser, incorporates speakers in the ceiling as well as on the walls.

Although the 12-channel technology is reportedly being retrofitted into select IMAX Digital cinemas, laser sites are still where you’ll find it most frequently.

3D and 2D has difference of dimension and depth of the screen
The main difference between 3D and 2D is of the dimension and depth of the screen

Competitors of IMAX

The emergence of IMAX digital theatres brought with it rivals who sought to offer their own interpretation of “the IMAX experience.”

Here’s a list of top competitors of IMAX:

  • Dolby Cinema
  • Cinemark
  • RPX
  • D-BOX
  • RealD 3D


  • The 65 mm negative film used by IMAX film cameras has a 15-perforation frame pitch and is shot horizontally.
  • The frame is roughly 70 by 50 mm in size.
  • The image on the screen is created by passing the printed negative through a projector onto 70 mm-wide print paper.
  • A single projector and one camera are used to create an IMAX 2D movie, which is then displayed on a screen.
  • The “2D” image that the viewer sees is flat. No specialized eyewear is worn.
  • For IMAX 3D, there are two distinct images, one for each viewer’s eye.
  • They can view a three-dimensional image with stereoscopic depth thanks to this.
  • Both the left- and right-eye views must be displayed on the screen almost simultaneously in order to create a 3D image.

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