Movie Types and Film Projection Part 1

Guest Post: JK

Over the over 125-year history of motion pictures, there has been a constant effort to enhance the capturing and viewing quality of these recordings. Even now, despite many standardizations throughout the 1900s, there are many different theatre marketing names that have cropped up in an effort to get customers to pay ever-increasing ticket prices. Not all of these marketing terms are straightforward or represent accurately the many technologies used to project the images onto all of those screens.

This is the first in a four part series:

In the early 2000s, with the opening of the 2nd movie in a disappointing trilogy-that-must-not-be-named, digital recording and projection of movies became mainstream, and the analog film technology used since the beginning of motion pictures was suddenly being replaced. Since then, digital movie technologies have taken over the industry and have seen Fujifilm, Kodak, and many smaller and independent companies either become shadows of their former selves, or disappear altogether. Some argue this has led to more accurate projection of movies and a more consistent and better moviegoing experience. Others recognize that we didn’t know just how incredible some of the film technologies were, until they were on the verge of being completely lost forever.

Christopher Nolan is one of those who sees an inherent artistic quality to using film cameras and projection instead of digital systems, and continues to use the most advanced film cameras ever built to capture his movies, and in some theaters, exhibiting them using the highest quality analog projection. His newest movie, Dunkirk, is no exception.

The following posts are an in depth look at the different movie projection technologies, or “the many ways to experience Dunkirk in theatres.”

This set of posts primarily focuses on the visual aspect of seeing a movie, though there are some mentions of audio technologies as well.

Don't worry - it will likely be an amazing movie in any format, after all, story and characters are the most important part of (almost) any movie

In the case you are looking to see it in the best format possible, and want to know why, keep reading. For the lazy among us, that just want to know what is “best,” there is a convenient TL;DR at the end of Part 4.

Here are all the movie projection systems that are in use today:

  •  Most Common:
  • 2K Digital
  • 4K Digital
  • IMAX Digital

Less Common:

  • 35MM Film
  • 7OMM Film (Known as 5/70)
  • 4K Digital Laser

Rare:

  • IMAX Digital Laser
  • IMAX Film 7OMM (Known as 15/70)