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Reviewing the TCL Chinese IMAX Theater – Hollywood

I just finished watching The Avengers: Age of Ultron in IMAX at the TCL Chinese Theater and I just have one word to say…..Wow!!! And I don’t mean just the movie.

For those of you who don’t know, the TCL Chinese Theater recently upgraded their projector to the new dual 4K IMAX laser projection system recently introduced by IMAX and those of us in or near Los Angeles should be glad they did. I will be reviewing the IMAX at the Spectrum in Irvine and will be able to make an apples to apples comparison soon, but my initial reaction is that the projection system at the TCL Chinese is the best I’ve ever seen. I like to sit close, and I mean really close, to the screen. From my 6th row seat, I could not see any pixelation whatsoever. The picture for the “The Avengers: Age of Ultron was a very bright and crisp 3D projection with almost unbelievable contrast.

I have a 3D, DLP projector at home and the there is virtually no ghosting (dual image) on my home theater. If you watch a 3D movie in most theaters, you will occasionally be able to see this dual image on screen. Was I able to see this at the TCL Chinese theater? The answer is “NO”. This may be a result of the movie itself, but I suspect that something else is going on with regard to the 3D technology employed by the new projector. First off, the 3D glasses clearly are not the same linear polarized glasses traditionally used by the (true) IMAX theaters we’re used to visiting. I suspect that they employ circular polarization, but, if they do, it just looks better than the circular 3D projections I’ve seen. It may be due to the fact that the picture was so bright and clear that it washes out any artifacts that leak through the polarized glasses. I am going to do everything I can to get any and all information I can to clarify the 3D aspect of this new technology. Whether you’re interested in the technical details or not, I can tell you that you WILL notice a difference if you watch a movie in this theater.

If you aren’t familiar with, and are interested in, the concepts of “ghosting” (dual image) or “linear” vs. “circular” polarization, you can visit the websites below.

3D Ghosting and Polarizing Techniques

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3108570

At this time, there are only two theaters in the world which use this projection system, but many more are on tap and by the end of 2015, a lot of theaters will be employing this system all over the world

In addition, the sound system is flat out amazing and adds 6 additional channels of sound. I don’t have many details, but will add them as I get them. What I can say right now is that if you appreciate the audio aspect of theater viewing, you’re going to be more than happy with the sound system at the TCL Chinese Theater.

If you’re wondering about getting a full on IMAX experience, the screen appears to be close to 100′ wide (This is an estimate as I don’t have any hard numbers right now, but the below link is a photo that will give you some idea just how big the screen is). While I wasn’t able to get the entire screen in the shot, the person standing in front of the screen gives you some idea of just how big it is.

TCL Chinese Screen Shot

When I get more details, I will post them in short order.

I’m trying to get technical details and pictures from the corporate office and, if I do, I’ll post a complete review. In the meantime, here is a website that will give you some more information on this remarkable projection system.

http://gizmodo.com/imaxs-new-laser-projectors-make-me-wish-i-lived-in-a-mo-1689480610

 

10 Comments

  1. Leonardo

    Hey, Does the aspect ratio change depending the movie? For example in avengers, the screen was 2.55:1? Or does the screen keeps the same?

    • InCali

      The native aspect ratio depends on how it is processed. Most movies are projected in the widescreen format. They can be edited when released on blu ray or DVD or for TV to 16:9 (standard HD format) or even 4:3 (standard low def format). Depending on the TV or projector, there are also settings which will stretch the image displayed. Say you are watching a low def (4:3) movie on your HD TV (16:9), some TVs allow you to horizontally stretch the image to fill up the sides so you don’t have black bars. It also makes the people look kind of pudgy and fat. LOL. You’ll notice that when you have a wide screen DVD, that you will have black horizontal bars at the top and bottom of the screen on your HD TV. That’s because the wide screen format is wider than the standard HD format given the height. Some TVs allow you to Zoom to get rid of the black bars, but it will also cut off some of the sides of the film to fit on to the screen. You might even be able to stretch the image vertically, but then people would look skinnier than normal (who says TV makes you look 10 pounds heavier?).

      Hope that answers your question.

    • InCali

      I’m going to give you a little fuller answer because I think it’s something that is misunderstood. Typically, most movies are presented in 2.40:1 aspect ratio. These movies have generally been cropped so you don’t get the “full” picture shot. IMAX has the capability to project a movie at 1.43:1 so you can get virtually all of what is shot. Christopher Nolan will often use the very high definition IMAX camera to shoot much of his movies and will change the aspect ratio as part of the presentation. The footage in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises was, at times, breathtaking. I hope this helps.

  2. Leonardo

    Wow man, thanks for the answer, It was very clear.
    So, in the TCL, when a movie is projected in widescreen, can you see the black bars? Or is it like a masking screen?

    • InCali

      The projection doesn’t always (probably almost never) fills the screen, but you don’t notice it like you do at home with your TV that has a frame. The theater screen doesn’t have a frame like a TV or my home theater screen, so your brain just takes in the picture as it is without the frame acting like a reference point for a “full screen”. When Nolan makes a film and shoots part of it in IMAX, it really fills up the IMAX screen and though you may not notice it consciously, you notice that it looks frelling awesome.

  3. Leonardo

    That’s so cool!! Thanks for the info.
    By the way, do you know that avengers 3 will be entirely filmed with the new IMAX digital camera? That’s awesome! Isn’t it?

    • InCali

      I did NOT know that. Can you send me a link? Will the Russos be shooting Captain America: Civil War partially or fully with the IMAX camera? I would think they’d want some practice before jumping into Infinity Wars.

      Very interesting news.

  4. beetstreet

    thanks for the theater info. i came across your write ups while i was googling los angeles imax theaters. i’m curious which screen you’re planning to see star wars the force awakens? i’m closest to the playa vista cinemark, but i’ll trek over to the chinese theater if there would be a significant upgrade. i also saw that century city and del amo are showing star wars in imax. any opinions on those screens?

    • InCali

      I’ve already got my ticket for TFA at the Chinese for Friday, Dec 18 at 5:15AM!!!! Yeah, I know I’m crazy, but just about everything is sold out except for the 2AM and 5:15AM showings. There are some OK seats for those if you’re a nut like me. IMO, this is one I want to see in IMAX. The new IMAX sound system is killer and those dual IMAX projectors do a great job. My next choice would be the Cinemark at Howard Hughes. They generally charge a little less, have a bigger screen, but you have to pay for parking. I think it comes out to be a shade cheaper there. The only advantage the Playa Vista theater has is the dual sound system which is a great idea, but a lot of people aren’t going to consciously notice the difference between the 2. I personally like the Dolby ATMOS a little better than the Auro 11.1, but sound is very subjective.

      ICKSNAY on the Century City. The Cinemarks are SIGNIFICANTLY better. They have dual 4K Barco projectors and the Century City isn’t even a true IMAX theater. They had dual 2K projectors last time I checked so the resolution isn’t as good AND the screen is smaller than the Cinemark at HH (and Playa Vista too I think). I haven’t been to the Del Amo, but I don’t think it’s a true IMAX either. You can check and see, but AMC has the IMAX in name only theaters that we call LieMax. Ain’t really worth it unless that’s the only game in town.

      Hope this helped out. Let me know what you decide and let me know what you think of the theater. Have you been to the Chinese yet? If not, I’d say go check it out. If you wait a couple of weeks, you can probably get good seats. I like to be close so I’m down on the floor in about the 9th row in an aisle seat (middle of theater). Perfect for me.

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