Dunkirk, IMAX & the Power of the Image

Since Christopher Nolan’s new movie Dunkirk is just playing in theaters, it’s going to be a while before it makes it to video. But because the movie puts tremendous emphasis on the proper presentation (which is what Rayva is all about), I thought it would be worth catching on the big screen. I wanted to see for myself what Nolan is talking about in the video clip above.


“I wanted to give people a really intense ride,” he says, and he accomplishes it in two waysfirst through superb storytelling, with the viewer placed front-seat center during the tragic evacuation of the Allied Forces from the coast of Dunkirk. Second through shooting the movie in the IMAX format, resulting in breathtaking cinematography.


About 70% of Dunkirk was shot in full IMAX while 30% was shot in 70mm, so it gave me an interesting opportunity to compare the two formats. The IMAX aspect ratio is 1.9:1 while 70mm uses the slightly wider 2:1. But the main difference between the two formats is that 70mm has 5 perforations per frame, while IMAX has 15.


The difference in picture quality between the formats was very noticeable. The full IMAX image was impeccably smooth and sharp, delivering long shots of stunning clarity. The 70mm was impressive but less overwhelming, with less dynamic range in the dark scenes and with a subtle grain that was completely missing from the IMAX segments of the movie. If you haven’t seen Dunkirk yet, do yourself a favor and see it in IMAX, not just in 70mm. You’ll be glad you did.


It will be interesting to see how the movie translates to video. I know it will be sharp. It will probably set new standards for home theater presentation. But will it have the emotional pull of seeing it on the huge screen of an IMAX theater? Maybe, if your home theater screen is big enough.


But the truth is that Dunkirk is so emotionally involving that after a while you’ll probably forget you’re watching a movie on video. That’s the power of great storytelling combined with brilliant technology.

—Theo Kalomirakis

Theo Kalomirakis is widely considered the father of home theater, with scores of luxury theater
designs to his credit. He is an avid movie fan, with a collection of over 15,ooo discs. Theo is the
Executive Director of Rayva.

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