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Around Town: Victoria Imax theatre shows off new technology

Imax Corp.’s “go big or go home” philosophy took on a new dimension during the launch of its new dual 4k laser projection system with 3-D at Imax Victoria. Theatre director Paul Wild and his team pulled out all the stops at Royal B.C.

Imax Corp.’s “go big or go home” philosophy took on a new dimension during the launch of its new dual 4k laser projection system with 3-D at Imax Victoria.

Theatre director Paul Wild and his team pulled out all the stops at Royal B.C. Museum to roll it out for a 160-plus crowd on Thursday night.

“It feels like you’re getting the keys to a new car, but instead of a Mini it’s a Maserati,” said Wild, clearly thrilled his theatre’s two-years-in-the-making digital conversion had reached the finish line.

Technological upgrades to the theatre that opened in 1998 as a traditional 70-millimetre Imax film showplace began two years ago with the installation of two interim 2K digital projectors, a new 540-kilogram silver screen measuring 18.6 by 26 metres and the first batch of new speakers for its customized 12-channel audio upgrade. The designations 2K and 4K are measures of image resolution; 4K produces a much higher-resolution picture.

Since Imax’s next-generation laser system wasn’t yet in production, Wild had to wait until last month for its completion.

Seated in plush new stadium-seat rockers and equipped with Imax’s new high-end 3-D glasses, gala-goers got a sneak preview of the quantum-leap in cinema technology in the first Imax theatre in B.C. outfitted with the new laser system. It’s one of only 24 in the world.

The immersive new audio and visual experience provides the sharpest, brightest and highest-resolution colour 2-D and 3-D images yet.

Guests received 70-millimetre film strip mementos and were treated to wine, cocktails and gourmet snacks before being offered popcorn and sodas to enjoy during America Wild: National Parks Adventure.

David Keighley, Imax Corp.’s chief quality officer, presented a prelude, expounding upon the new technology’s virtues with the glee of a youngster showing off a new toy.

It included an impressive audio demo, an Imax sizzle reel, and dazzling 3-D imagery, including clips from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol sequence in which Tom Cruise scales Dubai’s towering Burj Khalifa, and a preview of Imax’s Beautiful Planet, the upcoming International Space Station documentary, narrated by Jennifer Lawrence.

Describing Imax as “the Lamborghini of the motion picture business,” the 44-year Imax veteran said he hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for “a company that has been trying to raise the bar for 45 years” despite new Netflix-era challenges it faces.

“Hey, I do Netflix, too,” the film buff said with a laugh. “I watched House of Cards Season 4 in a day-and-a-half.”

While he said reaching millennials is a challenge, Imax is always coming up with new ways, such as virtual reality technology it is experimenting with, to attract them.

“Is social interplay as important to millennials? I’m not so sure,” Keighley said. “There’s so much clutter. Everybody says everything blows you away, so you’ve got to get above the clutter.”

One project he has high hopes for is Imax enthusiast Christopher Nolan’s Second World War drama Dunkirk for which Nolan is shooting Imax footage on the shores of Dunkirk.

Shawnigan-based Imax veteran David Douglas was pumped about seeing, for the first time, remastered clips from his 1993 Imax concert classic Rolling Stones at the Max projected with the new technology.

“We’ve waited for years to find some medium that could measure up to film, and this is it,” said Douglas, whose stunning imagery for Born To Be Wild 3D, the 2011 documentary about orphaned orangutans and elephants, seemed remarkably vivid.

“We’ve finally crossed the border,” said Douglas, whose next project is a co-production with Warner Bros. about a “bear whisperer” drafted by the Chinese to teach them to how to release baby pandas into the forest.

“This technology has taken our work and breathed new life into it in a way I didn’t think was possible.”

mreid@timescolonist.com

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