Imax responds to Saskatoon 'Liemax' claim, says there's more to it than screen size

The new screen offers a larger periphery of vision than a standard screen, says an Imax executive.

New screen offers a larger periphery of vision than standard screen, says movie format executive

Brian Bonnick, the chief technology officer for Imax, is defending the company's new Saskatoon screen. (Imax)

Imax's chief technologist says there's more to Saskatoon's new Imax auditorium than just the screen size.

The comment comes in the wake of criticism about the new screen, located in the Scotiabank Theatre location downtown, bearing the "Imax" label despite being much smaller than a standard Imax screen. Some critics, such as Saskatoon writer Craig Silliphant, call a screen like this a "Liemax."

The dimensions of the recently-converted Saskatoon screen — 56 feet wide by 31 feet tall — are indeed smaller than the long-standing Imax screen at Regina's Saskatchewan Science Centre, which measures 73 feet wide by 52 feet tall.  

But Brian Bonnick, Imax's chief technology officer, said it's still a step up from the screen it replaced.

"Although it's not as big a screen as you might see in that science centre, it is substantially larger in filling your peripheral vision than a standard commercial cinema environment," said Bonnick.

Silliphant, the opinion writer, said his recent experience seeing The Avengers: Infinity War at the new IMAX screen was "far from immersive."

"I think it depends where you sit, but my seat was in no way setting me up to fill my field of vision," he said.

The seats themselves were "horrible — like squeezing into an airplane seat."

'Work with what's available to you'

Building a standard Imax facility at Cineplex's Scotiabank Theatre wasn't an option due to the building code, but Cineplex chose the largest auditorium for the Imax conversion, said Bonnick.

"The science centre was a purpose-built building, and unfortunately nowadays people aren't building buildings of that size. So you have to work with what's available to you."

Bonnick said the new Imax screen is a step up from the standard screen it replaced in that it offers viewers a larger periphery of vision, owing partly to the screen being so close to the seats and its wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor positioning. (Imax)

Movies also fill the entire screen, he said, as opposed to standard screens where black masking and bars take up some of the screen, depending on the aspect ratio of the film being shown.

"They're not utilizing the full potential area," said Bonnick.

Custom equipment

Bonnick also pointed to the projector and sound system in the Saskatoon Imax auditorium.

He said the picture is 60 per cent brighter than the image offered by most theatre projectors, which is particularly important in 3D films where the colour-tinted glasses darken the view.

"None of this stuff is off the shelf," Bonnick said.

Bonnick spoke perhaps most passionately about the precisely-calibrated sound, using last summer's "Dunkirk" as an example.

"We can play sound an entire octave lower than a standard theatre," he said.

"It wasn't loudness you were hearing in Imax, it was the lower bass where your body was palpating from it."

Silliphant agreed on that point.

"The sound was amazing. No complaint there."

About the Author

Guy Quenneville

Reporter and web writer for CBC Saskatoon

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