IMAX Enhanced wants to bring the unique IMAX cinema experience into your home. But how does it work? Do you need to buy new gear to get IMAX Enhanced? Here’s everything you need to know.
The IMAX Experience
IMAX Enhanced is a certification program developed by IMAX Corporation and DTS. The aim is to work with device makers and content creators to enable consumers to get the best picture and sound experience outside of an actual theater.
It has two parts—IMAX Enhanced devices and IMAX Enhanced content. So you’ll see IMAX Enhanced-certified televisions, speakers, and AV receivers (AVRs) on the market, as well as IMAX Enhanced content on Blu-ray and streaming services in 4K HDR.
It is somewhat similar to Dolby’s ecosystem of Dolby Vision and Atmos devices and content. But IMAX Enhanced has a couple of tricks that set it apart from the Dolby ecosystem.
What Does It Mean to Be IMAX Enhanced?
Being IMAX Enhanced means a device meets certain performance standards set by IMAX and DTS. The devices are tested for resolution, color, brightness, contrast, viewing mode, and sonic fidelity. Thus guaranteeing the consumers that if they pick a TV or AVR marked IMAX Enhanced, they’re sure to get the best experience for IMAX content.
IMAX Enhanced devices also come with a special IMAX mode that kicks in when they detect any IMAX Enhanced piece of content. As a part of this mode, the TVs stop all of their external processing to ensure you see the content as it was intended to be watched. Similarly, on AVRs or speakers, when IMAX mode activates, the sound is directed in a way that mimics the IMAX cinema experience.
On the content side, the IMAX Enhanced badge brings several improvements on the picture, sound, and scale fronts. All IMAX Enhanced content is either mastered or re-mastered to offer the best experience.
As part of this mastering process, IMAX says the company utilizes its proprietary technology to reduce noise and grain, which typically appears when content is shot on film, from the IMAX Enhanced version. All this is done under the filmmaker’s guidance to preserve the artistic intent.
IMAX Enhanced doesn’t just improve the image quality. It also leverages a version of the DTS:X format to bring the IMAX Signature Sound to the living room. As a result, you get the same sound available to an IMAX cinema-goer, with its deeper bass and more dynamic range.
Finally, if a movie was shot with IMAX cameras or formatted for IMAX theaters, its IMAX Enhanced version comes with an expanded aspect ratio of 1.90:1. It offers up to 26% more picture than the typical widescreen film aspect ratio of 2.39:1. So when you watch an IMAX Enhanced movie on your TV, you’ll see more picture and less black bars.
Unfortunately, not all IMAX Enhanced content is made equal. For example, the Marvel titles released on Disney+ in November 2021 don’t come with the IMAX Signature Sound by DTS. It’s indicated to be coming in the future, but there is no confirmed timeline. Also, you won’t get the expanded aspect ratio unless a movie was shot in the taller aspect ratio.
Do You Need New Gear to Watch IMAX Enhanced Content?
After hearing about a new video format or standard, it’s obvious to wonder whether you’ll need to upgrade your setup to enjoy it. Fortunately, while the IMAX Enhanced-certified devices offer a better experience, you can watch the IMAX Enhanced content on any TV. And you’ll still get the benefits like expanded aspect ratio and a clearer picture.
However, you’ll miss out on the true IMAX Signature Sound and any optimizations that IMAX Mode makes on the certified devices. But, given the relatively limited selection of IMAX Enhanced content right now, it’s better to wait and watch.
If you’re looking for a complete IMAX Enhanced experience, a number of device makers, including Sony, Hisense, TCL, Denon, Marantz, and Onkyo, have released IMAX Enhanced-certified televisions, projectors, AVRs, and speakers on the market. You can find a list of certified devices on the IMAX Enhanced website.
For the best experience, IMAX recommends a large-screen 4K HDR TV (preferably 65-inch or larger). And DTS suggests going for a 7.2.4 system featuring seven speakers, two subwoofers, and four heights for audio. But a 5.1.4 speaker system will also do the trick.
Who Is Making IMAX Enhanced Content, and Where Can I Find It?
Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures, and Sony Pictures are working with IMAX to create IMAX Enhanced versions of their existing and upcoming movie catalogs. As IMAX and DTS are constantly adding new partners, the number of content partners will likely increase over the coming years. In addition, you can also watch IMAX’s own set of documentaries in the new format.
IMAX Enhanced content availability is also gradually expanding. You can find IMAX Enhanced movies and documentaries on Blu-ray and streaming services. As of late 2021, Disney+, Sony Bravia Core, Rakuten TV, Tencent, iQiyi, and Tsutaya streaming services offer IMAX Enhanced content in various markets.