3-D vs. IMAX: The Colour of Money

3D or IMAX which is better?

Every time that the world has been in a crisis, like we are now, cinema has always found a way to attract audiences. First, it was sound, then colour, then widescreen, then it was 3D, surround sound, and then 3D again. It’s never for the audience’s enjoyment, usually just for the money.

It’s not that I’m an opponent of 3-D, the technology of James Cameron’s Avatar is amazing, but I just feel it’s being overused. A recent example would be the Clash of the Titans remake – originally not meant to be shown in 3-D, because it wasn’t shot in 3-D. However, because Avatar made a bagillion dollars at the box office, it was converted to 3-D. This is very, very, very bad. The full effect doesn’t show and seems gimmicky, with things popping out of the screen here and there, a bit like an old William Castle film.

A lot of studios have noticed the surge in 3-D and have put more 3-D films into production. Dreamworks has announced that it will only make 3-D films from now on, even in its live-action films. These trends have oversaturated the market with 3-D, and it’s hard to find a film at the cinema that isn’t in 3-D. Perhaps I’m biased, because I wear glasses and I don’t recieve the full 3-D effect, but perhaps we can hope that this is a surge in 3-D, akin to the 50s and 80s fad.

Personally, my faith lies in IMAX. It’s brighter, clearer and better. I’m not usually one to agree with Christopher Nolan, the famed director of Inception and The Dark Knight, but when he says that IMAX is the way forward, I can’t help but understand where he’s coming from. IMAX is basically twice as good as a normal film you will see – the standard size of ‘normal’ film is 35mm, whereas IMAX is 70mm. This essentially means that the film is twice as big, twice the resolution and twice the brightness. It’s why films shot on this format always look better on Blu-Ray (see: Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, Transformers 3) – it’s because there’s more resolution to work with.

When a film is converted to 3-D, it loses about 30% in brightness, due to the polarising effect of the glasses you wear, and it’s why 3-D films often look ridiculously bright in 2-D – they have to compensate for the loss of light. Even IMAX 3-D looks better – because there’s twice the resolution to work with, the 30% light loss barely effects it, and it still looks better than a normal film.

The best thing about IMAX is the experience. It completely fills your field of vision, making you feel like you’re actually there – when Tom Cruise was on top of the tallest building in Dubai, I felt like I was there with him and actually started to get vertigo. You don’t see any black borders, you don’t see any curtains around the screen – you’re just there and having the time of your life.

Overall, I think 3-D films have one, maybe two years left at most. IMAX is the way forward, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

John Quigley