Laser quest: IMAX's latest technological update may be its best yet

IMAX's laser-based upgrade hits the UK

In their constant battle with the home, cinemas have to remind the world that their technology is at the cutting edge. And there is nothing more cutting edge than lasers.

IMAX knows this and that's why it has found a way to use laser tech in its latest cinema set-up in the UK.

It is claiming that its new laser projectors increase brightness up to 50-60 per cent more than standard cinemas. The first IMAX in Europe to get this upgrade is the Empire in London's Leicester Square and techradar was among the first in the world to get a demo.

IMAX with Laser really is an all-over upgrade - it comes in at a cost of $60 million, which is why you won't find the technology in every IMAX cinema. This money does buy a redesigned dual projector, a new sound system, with added tracks, and a rebuild of the interior of the cinema to enhance the cinemagoer's experience.

The intended effect is twofold: it offers the viewers an intense, immersive experience as well as giving filmmakers a chance to explore new visual and audio territory.

Set lasers to stun

The preview and demo reels that we saw in the demo looked beautiful. Images were bright, sharp and vibrant. This is topped off with the blacks so black, at times you can't tell where the screen begins and ends.

To make sure images truly zing, IMAX has built a dual 4K projection system - this increases contrast and allows a wider colour gamut. By redesigning the projector, it has managed to build a system where there is no colour bleed as all the chips are separate.

IMAX

About those colours: they look truly incredible, with a display of every colour you can imagine. True to IMAX's word, images do look more lifelike, while shades aren't dulled, muddled or flat - they have depth and realism, as if you looking through a giant window, rather than a projection on a screen.

Added to this is the new sound system. Sound is the unsung hero of the movie experience and we only notice it when it's bad. The 12-channel enhanced sound system is built around the user - with sound even coming from above. You feel like you're completely enveloped in what you're watching.

One of the previews we saw included a rocket launch - and, for a moment, we felt like we were about to be propelled into the air ourselves. The sound was incredible, making the seat under us rumble, but not in an ear-splitting way. The sound hit us right in the middle of belly.

Likewise, a pin drop could be heard crystal clear and loud, it was as if all the other noise had been sucked out of the cinema.

IMAX

The 50 to 60 per cent brightness claim was warranted with what we saw. When we put our 3D glasses and watched the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, it wasn't dark and dim as we're used to with 3D. Flicking between no glasses and glasses, there was no real difference other than the blurriness, of course.

Walk the line

If you want to experience it for yourself, then the Empire Leicester Square IMAX with Laser is open for viewings, starting with The Walk.

All the films you see there go through something called Digital Media Remastering (DMR), an upscaler that makes them fit for the experience.

But there are some movies that have been made specifically for the IMAX - like Batman V Superman. Other films out this year taking advantage of the technology include: Crimson Peak, Spectre and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

IMAX

David Keighley, Chief of Quality and Executive Vice President of IMAX said the new laser technology serves the "subtle things that help the filmmaker tell their story and preserve their intent" and all the upgrades definitely enhance the cinema experience.

But it's when filmmakers start shooting 4K natively more and utilising the new sound space and colour breadth creatively, the IMAX with Laser will really come into its own.