IMAX has just announced a new certification, named IMAX Enhanced. It’s a new certification program for televisions, projectors, soundbars and A/V receivers and concerns picture streamed in 4K HDR and DTS:X sound. In other words, these different devices will need to be IMAX Enhanced certified for the viewer to be able to enjoy IMAX Enhanced picture and sound.
What is IMAX Enhanced content?
Movies that have undergone specific 4K video processing, supervised by IMAX, to reduce noise and grain in the picture, controlled by producers. More brightness in 4K HDR will also be required. The sound of this content will be provided using a variant of DTS:X.
Is HDR the chosen format?
This is a mystery for the moment. Although we know that Ultra HD 4K IMAX Enhanced will be HDR, it’s not specified which format will be used for metadata. Clearly, it won’t be Dolby Vision, as IMAX has decided to team up with DTS. To make the most of IMAX Enhanced picture, you will need to own a television that is capable of huge peaks of brightness, and that is, by definition, high-end.
On which type of media can IMAX Enhanced content be found?
UHD Blu-ray discs are likely to be the main media used, even if IMAX has evoked the possibility of streaming content. That said, it’s hard to imagine the quality requirements set by IMAX Enhanced accommodating the high video compression used for streaming. Also, right now only Dolby’s Dolby Digital Plus Atmos offers an immersive multi-channel format compatible with the restrictions imposed by the bandwidth of our internet connections. DTS still needs to develop their version of this format.
Which partners are on board?
Sony, Paramount and Sound United (Denon and Marantz) will provide content and devices compatible with IMAX Enhanced. Denon has already announced IMAX Enhanced compatibility via a firmware update for their Denon AVR-X4500H, Denon AVR-X6500H and Denon AVR-X8500H A/V receivers set for the beginning of 2019. Marantz will provide an update for the Marantz SR-7013 and Marantz AV8805.
Will IMAX Enhanced movies be compatible with non-certified devices?
As a matter of fact, yes. UHD IMAX Enhanced Blu-ray discs will be compatible with all Ultra HD Blu-ray players. The video codec used will be HEVC and audio will be in DTS:X (with a standard 5.1 DTS core). If your setup doesn’t include ceiling speakers (for DTS:X or Dolby Atmos), native 5.1 or overmixed 7.1 listening will be possible.
Can IMAX Enhanced be compared to THX?
Yes, the THX certification that we’ve known for years for picture and sound with DVDs, Blu-ray and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs is akin to IMAX Enhanced. THX certification ensures superior quality picture and sound for the viewer, even if the video and audio codecs are the same as those used for “traditional” discs.
IMAX Enhanced: is it going to work?
If TV manufacturers decide to get involved, why not. But it’s apparent that the industry is already heading towards 8K, which is much easier to market. Consumers favor pixels over a spectacular picture.