By: Jeff Smith, IMAX Theater Director
Hi Everyone! I'm Jeff Smith, the IMAX Theater Director here at McWane Science Center. Today we're going to learn some things about the IMAX Projector, and what makes it special.
First off, most of you have probably heard a thing or two about IMAX recently, but did you know its actually been around since 1967? That's right, 40 plus years ago, a trio of Canadians wanted to make a giant movie screen. Up to this point, the only way to get a gigantic picture on a giant screen was to use several smaller projectors, align them perfectly, and point them at different parts of the screen. You can guess just how bad of an idea this is to try and keep all of the projectors running at the same speed, aligned properly, etc.
Once they decided they wanted a single projector solution they decided to use 70mm film running through the projector horizontally in a "rolling loop" motion that had been patented in Australia a few years earlier. The rolling loop is very kind to the film as it advances each frame into position, and its not uncommon for a single copy of an IMAX film to be shown 3000 times without noticeable wear. This is good, since each copy of an IMAX Film can cost up to $25,000!
Over the years, the mechanics of how the IMAX Projector runs have changed very little. The film runs through the projector the same way, but it has better lenses, and is now controlled by a computer instead of relays and switches. Other than those minor changes, everything is very similar to the very first IMAX system. The first IMAX System premiered at Expo '70 in Osaka, Japan, and my projector here in Birmingham, can still show Tiger Child just as that system did all those years ago.
Stay tuned: Next time we'll learn about the IMAX Sound System, and its ties to Birmingham.
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Jeff is an all around techno-geek. He went to college to become a rocket scientist, but is now an IMAX Theater Director. If it plugs in, or has moving parts, he wants to rip it apart and learn more about it! He doesn't read books, but will read anything online or watch it on TV. His wife was his opposite, but now has all the modern necessities, like a cell phone and MacBook, and doesn't understand how she lived without them.