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We consider three film formats to be "large-format" or "giant-screen." They are: 




Originally developed by the Imax Corporation in 1970, this format uses 70mm film run through the projector horizontally, so that the width of the film is the height of the frame. In all other LF and conventional formats, the film runs vertically, so that the width of the film is the width of the frame.


Each frame is 15 perforations wide, hence 15/70. The area of the frame is about 52mm high by 70mm wide (2 inches by 2.75 inches). 


The 15/70 frame is almost nine times larger than the conventional 35mm frame (below) used in neighborhood movie theaters. It is slightly less than twice as large as 8/70.


Although Imax Corp. was long the exclusive maker of 15/70 projectors and cameras, other manufacturers now make 15/70 systems.





Produced exclusively by Japan's Goto Optical Manufacturing for its planetarium customers, 10/70 is optimized for projection onto a dome. Known as Astrovision, 10/70 is found in theaters in Japan, China, South Korea, and Taiwan. Virtually all films presented in 10/70 theaters were originated in 15/70 and printed to 10/70.





The 8/70 format runs vertically, with a frame that is about 38mm high and 52mm wide (1.5 inches by 2 inches.) Because 8/70 uses about half as much film per minute as 15/70, shooting in 8/70 is less expensive and prints are about half the cost of 15/70 prints.


Many manufacturers produce 8/70 projectors.



Conventional film formats




Rarely seen in theaters now, this was once the premiere format for high-quality conventional film production and exhibition. Frame area is about 23mm high and 52mm wide (0.9 inches by 2 inches ).




The standard format seen in nearly all conventional movie theaters. The frame size is about 17.5mm high by 21mm wide (0.7 inches by 0.83 inches).


Digital formats


Digital systems have begun replacing film projection in many conventional multiplex theaters, and in some giant-screen theaters as well.


4K Digital


Three manufacturers are now providing digital cinema projectors using Texas Instruments' 4K DLP Cinema chip: Barco (top), Christie (middle), and NEC (bottom). Preliminary tests comparing 4K digital to 15/70 film suggest that 4K may be an acceptable replacement for GS film in some situations. See article here. 


IMAX digital


In 2008, Imax Corporation began the rollout of its digital projection system, which uses two Christie 2K projectors and proprietary image processing. With an aspect ratio of 1.9, this system is designed to be installed in existing multiplex auditoriums.


Other premium digital systems


Several major North American cinema chains are now offering premium digital theaters that offer most of the characteristics of IMAX digital theaters: dual and/or high-output projectors, larger screens, enhanced sound systems, and in many cases, premium seats.


These systems include:


Carmike Big DDD

Cinemark XD

Cinemagic SXHD

Regal RPX

Pictured: 2K digital projectors from Christie (top) and Barco (bottom).


Photo of Grand Tetons by James Hyder. 2002 by Cinergetics, LLC.



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Updated January 03, 2014