IMAX vs RealD 3D: Difference and Comparison

Sometimes, it may occur to many people how watching movies in the theatre feels so extraordinary than watching them on a regular TV screen. Why?

Find out here!  Movie theatre companies are more reliant on the latest and existing technologies to offer a seamless watching experience for their audience. 

Cinema is not only about high-quality picture display, but it’s a combination of every aspect, including projectors, speakers, lamps cameras and the electronics that drive them all. 

In the old times, formats used to be very basic; even in the early 21st century, few innovations were seen in the movie-theatre arena. But then 3D, otherwise called RealD 3D, emerged in this arena, which succeeded wonderfully.

This technology uses projectors with polarized light that creates an illusion of depth in the images, making movie-watching highly immersive. 

Key Takeaways

  1. IMAX is a large-format film and projection system that provides enhanced image quality, resolution, and immersion, with some IMAX theaters also offering 3D experiences.
  2. RealD 3D is a digital 3D projection technology that uses polarized glasses to create the illusion of depth in movies, used in standard-sized theaters.
  3. IMAX and RealD 3D are cinema technologies, but IMAX is focused on large-format projection and overall image quality, while RealD 3D specifically delivers a 3D viewing experience in standard theaters.

IMAX vs RealD 3D

IMAX is a 3D movie format using linear polarising technology to generate pictures. It makes use of dual projectors and is mostly used on big screens. RealD 3D is a movie format that uses circular polarizing technology for creating pictures with one projector and has its standard screen size.

IMAX vs Real 3D 1

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You must have heard about the word IMAX, abbreviated as Image Maximum. It’s the new way people enjoy watching movies. IMAX theatres have more enormous screens than any other theatre format. 

Surprisingly, “Dunkirk” was the first movie made available in 70mm IMAX screening. Mainly Christopher’s part was shot from an IMAX camera.

This version is higher than the standard 35mm film screens in theatres. Real D 3D and IMAX are the latest genres of cinema technology that give cinematographers more choices for editing and projecting movies in a more riveting way. 


Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonIMAXRealD 3D
3D TechnologyThe Imax theatres use a linear polarizing technique for picture generationReal 3D chores over the circular polarizing format for picture creation
ProjectorsIMAX theatre uses dual projectorsOn the other hand, Real 3D features a solo projector having a 3D lens
Screen sizeIMAX theatres offer big screens for a great watching experienceReal 3D theatres have the standard size for their screens.
Glass lensThe lens used in IMAX theatres makes use of curved polarizersWhereas Real 3D uses linear polarizers for its lenses.
Sound QualityThe sound in IMAX theatre is uncompressed and has perfect accuracyThe sound quality varies depending on the movie type.


What is IMAX 3D?

Imax 3D is the movie format that many theatres have these days. More significant is much better when enduring the latest blockbuster films, and IMAX guarantees to do so.

Watching movies in an IMAX theatre significantly differs from watching them in a regular multiplex cinema because IMAX 3D has better laser projection technology, bigger screen size, great quality sound system, and digital rem mastering (DRM). 

IMAX 3D has two projectors to be projected on the screen. Each projector is dedicated to each eye to ensure the audience gets the perfect clarity and brightness. 

IMAX Corporation is a renowned company in the entertainment technology business. IMAX has been in the industry since 1968, known for its innovation in making the stadium seating movie experience highly immersive. 

IMAX Corporation offices are in many cities like New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, London, Dublin, and Toronto. 

In today’s time, besides making IMAX theatres, they are also known for developing the world’s highest-resolution cameras and inaugurating laser projection technology. 

The world’s best film studios and filmmakers put forth IMAX theatres to make the experience extraordinary for the audiences so that the audience loves their movies watching them in IMAX 3D theatres. 

As per the exploration, there are a total of 1,514 IMAX theatres working in 80 different territories around the globe. There will be more upcoming IMAX in the short future. 

Technology Behind IMAX

IMAX is a motion picture projection format that is known for its large-screen theatres and impressive overall image quality. The technology behind IMAX involves an extensive and unique projection system with state-of-the-art equipment. To create a truly immersive and impressive experience for you, the IMAX technology has been carefully designed and constantly improved upon.

The IMAX projection system uses a specially designed, high-resolution camera that captures images on a much larger film format than traditional cameras. This allows for incredibly detailed and crisp visuals on the enormous screens, which can be up to 72 feet high and 98 feet wide. These large-format screens provide a fantastic canvas for the stunning visuals that IMAX films are known for.

Another key aspect of the IMAX technology is its advanced sound system. The IMAX theaters are designed with cutting-edge surround sound systems, providing an extraordinary audio experience to match the high-quality visuals. This audio system is carefully calibrated to ensure the sound is evenly distributed throughout the theater, giving you a consistent and immersive audio experience no matter where you are sitting.

In addition to the specialized camera, projection, and audio equipment, IMAX utilizes a unique aspect ratio for its films. While standard movie theaters use a 1.85:1 or 2.39:1 aspect ratio, IMAX films use a larger aspect ratio of 1.43:1. This wider format gives you a more complete and engulfing cinematic experience, which is at the essence of what IMAX strives to provide.

Visual Quality in IMAX

When you watch a movie in an IMAX theater, you can expect an unparalleled visual experience. The screen size is one factor that sets IMAX apart from other cinema formats, such as RealD3D. The enormous screen dimensions, measuring around 72 feet high and 98 feet wide, give you an immersive experience, making you feel like you are a part of the action.

The projection technology utilized in IMAX theaters is top-notch and designed for optimal image quality. The resolution is significantly higher than standard cinemas, with dual 4K projectors working in tandem to deliver sharp, vibrant images. This enhanced resolution also creates a crisper and clearer 3D experience, as the two projectors can render both left and right eye images simultaneously.

IMAX has stringent quality control measures to ensure that every theater maintains its high standards. More attention is paid to the calibration of the projectors, color accuracy, and image quality. This results in a more consistent and vivid visual experience, along with better brightness and contrast that further enhance the picture on the screen.

Apart from the size and image quality, the screen curvature also adds to the visual experience in IMAX theaters. The curved screens fill your peripheral vision, providing a more immersive and natural viewing experience. This expansive field of view makes the scenes feel larger than life and lets you enjoy every detail of the magnificent visuals.

Audio Experience in IMAX

As you visit an IMAX theater, you can expect an exceptional audio experience that sets it apart from other cinema formats. IMAX uses state-of-the-art audio technology to create a more immersive and realistic sound environment during your movie watching experience.

One of the key aspects of IMAX’s audio system is its use of custom-tuned speakers. These speakers are designed to provide a precise and powerful audio performance throughout the entire theater. This means that you’ll enjoy a high-quality listening experience regardless of where you’re seated.

In addition to superior speaker technology, IMAX employs advanced audio processing techniques to further enhance the sound quality. Theaters equipped with IMAX’s Immersive Sound System utilize 12 discrete audio channels, including two additional side channels and two overhead channels. This allows for greater positional accuracy of sound effects, making you feel as if you’re right in the middle of the action.

Moreover, IMAX’s uncompressed audio format ensures that the sound you hear is as close as possible to the original recording. This results in a crystal-clear and detailed audio experience, allowing you to appreciate every element of the film’s soundtrack.

imax 3d

What is RealD 3D?

Real D is an American company that docked in 2003 to introduce the established technology of 3D cinema worldwide. Natural D 3D delivers its audience an excellent and highly immersive movie-watching experience.

They successfully create a natural effect in the eyes of the audience by adding depth that makes the audience feel they have stepped into the movie themselves. 

RealD 3D is the world’s most comprehensive 3D cinema platform, where 26,500 theatres are installed in 72 different territories worldwide. 

RealD offices are headquartered in California, Hempstead, Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Moscow, Tokyo, and Oxford

RealD has two unique formats for Cinema, i.e. Premium format that goes up to 50’ screen size and Luxe format with 50’ above scope. 

Many filmmakers rely on RealD 3D for their movies because RealD involves intriguing technologies like TrueImage and TrueMotion, allowing filmmakers to present the film however they want without any flaws. 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was one of the movies that used TrueImage technology from RealD. 

Technology Behind RealD 3D

When you watch a movie in RealD 3D, you’re experiencing advanced technology designed to enhance your movie viewing. This 3D format uses complex equipment and techniques to ensure an immersive and enjoyable experience.

RealD 3D employs a process known as stereoscopic projection. Two images are projected onto the same screen, each intended for one of your eyes. To separate these images for your eyes, RealD 3D utilizes circular polarization. The projector is fitted with a specialized filter to polarize the light for each image differently – one in a clockwise direction and the other counterclockwise.

To receive the intended effect, you wear specialized glasses. These glasses have lenses that are also polarized, with one lens allowing light waves that match its own polarization, while the other lens blocks such light waves. This way, each of your eyes receives a separate image, which your brain then combines to form a 3D representation.

One of the advantages of using circular polarization is that it minimizes the ghosting effect, which can occur when the two images don’t align perfectly. Additionally, this technology allows you to tilt your head without losing the 3D effect, providing a more comfortable and flexible viewing experience.

However, it’s essential to remember that the quality of a RealD 3D experience depends on several factors, such as the screen size and projection equipment used by the theater. Therefore, it’s crucial to choose a reliable theater with excellent facilities to ensure the best experience when watching a movie in RealD 3D.

Visual Quality in RealD 3D

When you choose to watch a movie in RealD 3D, you can expect a visually immersive experience. RealD 3D uses circular polarization technology, which maintains the 3D image for the viewer regardless of any slight head movement. This allows you to comfortably watch a 3D film without worrying about distortion or loss of image quality.

The screen size for RealD 3D is similar to that of standard cinemas, ranging from 16-17 feet high and 30-50 feet wide. While this may not be as massive as an IMAX screen, it still provides a larger-than-life experience for moviegoers. The image quality in RealD 3D is also notable, offering bright and crisp images.

RealD 3D utilizes special glasses to deliver the 3D visual experience. These glasses work with the circular polarization technology used in the projection, ensuring that each eye receives a separate image for an accurate perception of depth. The glasses are lightweight and comfortable, further enhancing your overall viewing experience.

In addition to the impressive image quality, RealD 3D offers a more immersive experience when coupled with surround sound technologies in most theaters. A vivid audio experience, combined with the visual depth provided by RealD 3D technology, allows you to truly feel like a part of the movie you’re watching.

Audio Experience in RealD 3D

As you enjoy a movie in RealD 3D, the audio experience is an important aspect to consider. RealD 3D auditoriums utilize sound systems similar to those used in regular digital cinemas. Nothing too special, but a 5.1 or 7.1 channel system.

The audio technology in these systems enhances your overall cinematic experience. It delivers a precise and immersive sound experience that allows you to feel like you are part of the action on the screen. The surround sound setup delivers crystal clear audio from all around the room, allowing for a more enveloping experience as sounds travel from one speaker to another. With technological advances, you can expect even higher fidelity and more immersive audio from these systems.

When comparing RealD 3D’s audio capabilities to other formats like IMAX, it’s worth noting that IMAX has a few exclusive features. For example, IMAX auditoriums include additional height channels and their sound levels are strictly enforced and moderated by IMAX, making the sound louder and more impactful. However, RealD 3D auditoriums still provide a high-quality audio experience that complements the visuals and enhances your overall enjoyment of the film.

Main Differences Between IMAX and RealD 3D

  1. Polarization type: Real D 3D uses the circular polarization technique for its projectors, while IMAX uses the Linear polarization technique.
  2. Viewing: IMAX screens are giant and curved, refining the viewer’s angle on the screen and reducing the ghosting effect seen in many 3D screens. RealD 3D has a better viewing angle, allowing the audience to tilt or turn their heads while watching the movie. The ghosting effect is negligible in RealD 3D movie formats.
  3. Projectors: IMAX theatre uses Christie 2K dual projector systems with 2X times the resolution 1080p and bright and clear 3D images. RealD 3D, on the other hand, uses Sony’s 4K Digital Cinema projectors with a unique 3D lens inbuilt to offer the audience 4X times the high resolution 1080p.
  4. Audio: IMAX undoubtedly has the best sound system with pitch-perfect tuning and high accuracy. RealD 3D sound system varies by the size of the theatre.
  5. 3D Glasses: IMAX uses Large 3D glasses whereas RealD 3D offers standard sized 3D glasses.

Last Updated : 11 September, 2023

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