Imax Goes Futuristic with Digital Projection Chip

When most people think of Imax, they think of swooping, grandiose shots and dramatic camera angles capturing natural splendor. They remember those huge wall-to-wall screens and imagine the expensive equipment, cameras and film required to produce the films.

But would Imax still be Imax without that large-format 70mm film? The company thinks so, and so does Texas Instruments, which struck a deal Tuesday with Imax to use TI's DLP Cinema chips as the movie company converts to a digital projection system.

Imax's decision to go digital was announced last year, but the company initially talked about using a digital projection system designed by Sony. Instead, Imax chose TI's DLP system powered by "millions of tiny mirrors" - you've probably seen a commercial touting the technology. "We've evaluated competing cinema projection technology and found DLP Cinema to be the ideal match for the launch of the IMAX Digital projection system," said Imax's co-CEOs Richard L. Gelfond and Bradley J. Wechsler in a statement.

Imax's move to digital was motivated more by cost savings than by artistic or stylistic preferences (according to TI DLP cinema products group business manager Nancy Fares, digital Imax movies will simply "look a lot better"). Print costs for a 2-D Imax movie are about $22,000, and $45,000 for a 3-D film, according to The Hollywood Reporter. We don't know how much it will cost Imax to install each digital projection system in its many theaters, but we do know there's no real cost to duplicating a digital file. -Rachel Rosmarin