IMAX and DTS have come together in an effort to improve video and audio experiences at home through the launch of an ‘IMAX Enhanced’ program. It will span TVs, receivers, and sound systems as well as content.
IMAX in the living room
IMAX will no longer be a term associated solely with cinema. The company wants to extend its expertise to the home entertainment segment so it has partnered with DTS to create a certification and licensing program that should deliver the “highest-end” video and audio experience.
- “While the IMAX theatrical experience continues to be the gold standard in blockbuster movie-going, today we are launching an exciting new program that applies components of IMAX’s and DTS’ technology and expertise to deliver consumers a level of quality never before experienced at home,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond.
Launch partners include Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Sound United (Denon, Marantz, others). These companies will implement an ‘IMAX Mode’ in their respective products. This mode will be “meticulously optimized to play digitally re-mastered content as the filmmaker intended in the home”.
The IMAX Enhanced program will span “top-of-the-line 4K HDR televisions, A/V receivers, sound systems and other home theatre equipment”. There will also be digitally remastered content available from Hollywood studios as well as select IMAX documentaries. It sounds like content will be made available via streaming and UHD Blu-ray but it is not entirely clear.
The initiative appears to be a united front against Dolby who is touting Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos as a combined package for cinema and home entertainment. Dolby is moving into cinema where IMAX has traditionally had a firm grip of the premium experience, and DTS is struggling to keep up with Dolby Atmos in terms of market adoption. Together, the companies plan to push back.
TVs & audio systems must be certified
They explain that companies who want to sell IMAX Enhanced hardware must meet a“ prescribed set of the highest audio and video performance standards, set by a certification committee of IMAX and DTS engineers and Hollywood’s leading technical specialists.” The certification requirements were not published.
As for the audio side, DTS added that it will partner with “Hollywood sound mixers to use a special variant of its DTS:X codec technology integrated in home audio equipment to deliver an IMAX signature sound experience”.
- “DTS has a rich history in delivering premium entertainment experiences to the theater and at home, and the IMAX Enhanced program is an exciting opportunity to stay at the forefront of home entertainment,” said Xperi CEO Jon Kirchner. “Through the combined engineering and licensing efforts of the DTS and IMAX teams, as well as support from a number of the world’s leading device and content partners, the IMAX Enhanced program will bring a completely new, enhanced experience to the home while also supporting the continued penetration of DTS decoders, bringing premium sound to consumers’ devices.”
In terms of content, IMAX said that the program revolves around 4K and High Dynamic Range video but no specific HDR standard was mentioned. It is unclear if they are planning to develop an entirely new HDR format. However, they did say that content will have “reduced noise and grain under the filmmaker’s guidance to best optimize the content for a much higher quality, higher brightness 4K HDR display”. The company added that select IMAX Enhanced titles will “include an expanded aspect ratio for the film’s home release to show consumers more of the picture on their TV”.
The IMAX content will also be compatible with other 4K HDR TVs but not look its best, the company argued.
We have included the companies’ FAQ in the table below. More information will be available in time on imaxenhanced.com.
At this point, it is unclear if this will deliver true benefits for consumers or if it should be regarded mostly as a marketing push by IMAX and DTS but we will know more soon. The IMAX Enhanced initiative will launch starting this fall.
IMAX Enhanced FAQ
Why are IMAX and DTS launching this new program? While the IMAX theatrical experience continues to be the gold standard in blockbuster movie-going, the companies saw an opportunity to improve and create greater consistency in the home entertainment space. There are two challenges that we’re looking to address. First, we’ve all walked onto a showroom floor and been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of products. Other than price, how do consumers objectively know which is best? Second, as content moves downstream from theatrical to home, how do you ensure an optimized viewing experience that remains faithful to the filmmakers’ creative intent?
The goal of IMAX Enhanced is to take the mystery and frustration out of the buying process to make it easier for consumers to identify the highest-end content and consumer electronics products that will bring the most premium entertainment experience to your home.
What is the IMAX Enhanced program? IMAX Enhanced is a new licensing and certification home entertainment program. To qualify and carry the IMAX Enhanced logo, the highest-end TVs, projectors, sound bars, and AV receivers must meet stringent performance standards established by IMAX, DTS and Hollywood’s leading colorists in order to create a consistent and higher bar for image and sound performance on premium devices. IMAX digitally re-mastered content for the home environment is created to provide the sharpest 4K HDR images and powerful sound as the filmmaker intended. We are designing an IMAX Mode for the enhanced devices that will be meticulously optimized to play digitally re-mastered content to deliver the best viewing and listening experience on that device.
What are the benefits of IMAX Enhanced products? With IMAX Enhanced, consumers can now take comfort in knowing the products available under the program will deliver distinct and breathtaking images featuring more vibrant colors, greater contrast and sharper clarity, complete with powerful, premium immersive sound.
What makes content IMAX Enhanced? IMAX will supply select IMAX documentaries and work with its global studio and other content partners to build a steady stream of IMAX Enhanced versions of movies and other programming using the newest, proprietary post-production process developed by IMAX. It utilizes a sophisticated, advanced algorithm designed to produce the highest-quality, sharpest 4K HDR images.
This advanced process accurately reduces noise and grain under the filmmaker’s guidance to best optimize the content for a much higher quality, higher brightness 4K HDR display. Without this technology, high-dynamic range content can actually look worse than what was originally seen and intended by the filmmaker due to excessive noise and grain in the film.
Select IMAX Enhanced titles that were shot with IMAX® cameras or specially formatted for IMAX® theatres will also include an expanded aspect ratio for the film’s home release to show consumers more of the picture on their TV.
What partners are on board? How many more do you expect? Illustrating the breadth of the initiative, IMAX and DTS announced that a number of global consumer electronics and entertainment market leaders have joined the IMAX Enhanced program as launch partners, including Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures, Paramount Pictures, and Sound United (Denon and Marantz). The program will look to continue to partner with leading consumer electronics and entertainment companies to enhance select high-end 4K displays, projectors, A/V receivers, sound bars, and other home theatre equipment and content.
How do the products work together? Can I just buy a TV or a sound bar and not the entire suite of IMAX Enhanced products? IMAX Enhanced products are designed to work independently of each other and, even alone, will perform their function at the highest level. When combined, they work in concert, creating the most immersive and highest-quality experience available in the home.
Can I still watch IMAX Enhanced content via streaming or UHD Blu-ray Disc on a non-IMAX TV? If you watch an IMAX Enhanced movie on a non-IMAX TV, you will still get the best possible version of the content, but it will not be optimized to deliver the same high level of experience as watching or listening to it on an IMAX Enhanced device.