During the Q1 2022 IMAX Earning Conference Call, the company’s CEO Richard Gelfond announced a new premium service called IMAX LIVE, which basically will allow broadcasting of live events like concerts and shows, straight to IMAX theaters with the standard of IMAX. Does it mean that IMAX is developing new dedicated broadcast cameras? Not necessarily.
‘IMAX LIVE’: New methodology and technology of ‘elite’ broadcasting
As reported by The Wrap, at CinemaCon in Las Vegas this week, IMAX EVP Megan Colligan proudly touted the company’s new “IMAX LIVE” venture, which is designed to get the premium company a foothold in the growing events market for movie theaters. The project, which Colligan says began development prior to the pandemic, involved creating a new infrastructure allowing for low-latency broadcasting of live events to a worldwide audience using IMAX cameras, allowing global airings of concerts.
Low-latency broadcasting using IMAX cameras
This new ‘infrastructure’ which includes low latency technologies and IMAX camera output, was further discussed in the company’s Q1 2022 IMAX Earning Conference Call held by CEO Richard Gelfond. Here are the objective, strategies, and technology as stated in the deck:
- Objective: Diversify and control content offering, add value and differentiation to existing IMAX fans and theater partners, and attract new demographics to The IMAX Experience, while generating incremental revenue and gross margin.
- Strategy: Broaden and deepen relationships with the world’s best creators and artists to generate exclusive moments for more fans around the world. Scale network of theaters with cutting-edge capabilities partnering with large technology companies and rapidly expand the content offering through partnerships with large entertainment platforms and developed directly with top talent.
- Technology: A globally connected network of theaters capable of bringing high-quality video and audio with cinema quality at extremely low latency, enabling live, interactive moments between creators and fans worldwide – in effect creating a global network of decentralized arenas.
“We believe this is a significant opportunity for us — live-cinema music events that exponentially grow an artist’s reach without sacrificing the quality and intimacy of an in-person experience,” Gelfond said. “In fact, in some ways, we top that in-person experience — with crystal clear, stunning visuals and sound capabilities that approximate what it’s like to sit in the front row of a live event.”
New IMAX Broadcast Cameras?
We’ve reported recently regarding IMAX’s plan to develop four new IMAX cameras. The first prototype is being tested as we speak and will debut in 2023. The cameras are being developed with a partnership of Kodak, Panavision, and FotoKem, and based on insights from filmmakers Christopher Nolan and Jordan Peele. The cameras will incorporate new features and improvements. However, these cameras will run film, hence will be not suitable for broadcasting. Anyway, during the Earning Call, Gelfond indicated that the “Filmed in IMAX” program certifies high-end cinema cameras to be defined as ‘Digital IMAX cameras’. For instance, Gelfond repeatedly said the Top Gun: Maverick was shot on ‘IMAX digital cameras’ (shot on Sony VENICE). Thus, we can assume that IMAX LIVE will be executed by utilizing these IMAX-certified cinema cameras that also, have solid broadcast capabilities. For instance, the Sony VENICE 2 8K can be referenced as a valid candidate for IMAX LIVE, as well as other cameras (ARRI ALEXA LF, or RED Monstro – with the correct infrastructure). Nevertheless, we don’t think dedicated IMAX broadcast cameras will be developed for such a purpose.
IMAX LIVE can be an ultra-immersive experience and a refreshing way to see live events in a big movie theater. It will be interesting to explore how this methodology will be achieved. We’ll find that very soon, as among the events planned in the coming months for “IMAX Live” are concert performances by Roger Water, Swedish House Mafia, and Rene Fleming, as well as a big-screen broadcast of the 43rd season of CBS’ “Survivor.”