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WTF is IMAX Enhanced?

You may not be able to build a real IMAX Theater in your home but IMAX Enhanced provides a different way to create an enhanced home theater experience.

IMAX Enhanced by IMAX dts Logo

Last Updated: May 18, 2024 with contributions by Chris Boylan

Have you ever wanted to experience IMAX at home? We know it’s not possible to build an actual IMAX theater in your home unless you have an unlimited budget and a lot of room (IMAX does offer a package but it’s equivalent to a fleet of luxury exotic cars) but IMAX Enhanced is an interesting alternative.

Moviegoers love the IMAX experience because of the image size and immersive sound. However, going to the movie theater these days is not necessarily the best choice for many. On the other hand, all is not lost as you can get a taste of that IMAX experience at home via the IMAX Enhanced Certification Program. This option provides access to compatible content and enhanced video and audio decoding/processing that meets the IMAX standard for home theater.

IMAX Enhanced devices include select TVs, projectors, home theater receivers, AV preamp/processors, speakers and soundbars.

The way it works is that TVs and supporting components meet specific standards established by IMAX in partnership with DTS. IMAX determines whether a device meets the required video standards, while DTS evaluates audio standards.

IMAX Certified devices include an IMAX Mode that activates automatically when compatible content is detected. IMAX Enhanced content can be streamed on compatible services, including Disney+ and Sony Pictures Core (formerly “BRAVIA Core”) or purchased on physical media, e.g., Ultra-HD Blu-ray Discs.

IMAX Enhanced Mode For Video

IMAX Mode can operate on the video portion of IMAX Enhanced content in a few different ways.

Content or portions of content originally filmed in IMAX prompt the TV or video projector to display that content according to the IMAX aspect ratio used (1.44:1 or 1.9:1). Of course, most displays have a fixed screen size and shape so all this really does on most TVs is change the size of the letterbox bars using more of less of the display screen, depending on the aspect ratio of the content. On a TV which is not “IMAX Enhanced” you still get variable aspect ratios on IMAX Enhanced content as the variable ratios are displayed within the TV’s 16:9 frame: ultra wide 2.35:1 content appears with large letterbox areas at top and bottom while 1.9:1 content fills more of the screen and uses smaller letterbox bars.

Maximum Brightness from HDR encoding is based in accordance with the specific TV or projector’s light output capability. IMAX Enhanced employs the HDR10/10+ High Dynamic Range format on 4K content.

Video noise and artifacts are detected and cleaned up automatically. The goal is to provide more accurate brightness of small objects such as stars or lights, minimal halos or video buzzing around circular edges, and straighter lines. Grain is reduced on content previously shot on IMAX film stock rather than IMAX digital files.

IMAX Enhanced Illustration
IMAX Enhanced Illustration, comparing the IMAX 1.9:1 aspect ratio to traditional CinemaScope (2.35:1).

IMAX Enhanced Mode For Audio 

In addition to video, IMAX Enhanced is also designed to elevate the listening experience at home. Ideally, IMAX Enhanced content will use a DTS:X immersive soundtrack which was based on the original IMAX theatrical mix. But on systems that lack DTS:X support, an alternate immersive soundtrack (normally Dolby Atmos) is provided.

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A variation of the DTS:X format is used for the IMAX Enhanced immersive audio experience. The IMAX Enhanced Mode for audio can be used with 5.1, 7.1, or more channel setups but a 5.1.4 or 7.1.4 channel immersive audio setup that you might normally use for Dolby Atmos also works well for DTS:X. In addition to the 5.1 or 7.1 horizontally placed speakers, the .4 designation refers to either vertically firing reflective speakers or ceiling mounted speakers. This provides more immersive surround sound by adding height effects in additional to traditional surround. And this matches the 4 height speakers used in most IMAX theaters.

Check out deep dive on DTS:X sound in IMAX Enhanced movies with Sven Mevissen from DTS

DTS:X can be delivered in a lossless format (which we find on Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc) or in a lossy compression format known as “DTS:X for streaming” or “DTS:X Profile 2.” Also, while technically the DTS:X Profile 2 streamed soundtrack is lossy, DTS reps claim that it is “perceptually lossless.”

Tip: A room with a flat ceiling is a must for best results with reflective speakers. If you don’t have flat ceilings, in-ceiling or on-ceiling speakers or wall-mounted speakers above the listening position are strongly preferred.

DTS:X Video Overview

IMAX Enhanced Content

IMAX Enhanced content is available on select UHD Blu-ray Discs as well as select streaming content from services such Disney+ and Sony Pictures Core (formerly BRAVIA Core).

Shang Chi Movie in IMAX Enhanced on Disney+

Sony Pictures Core is a proprietary streaming service from Sony, only available on select Sony BRAVIA TVs and the Sony PS5 gaming console. The service includes a decent selection of IMAX Enhanced content and many IMAX Enhanced features when available. It can’t currently be accessed through other streaming devices, not even Sony UHD Blu-ray Players with streaming services built in. Sony’s PS5 gaming console also includes access to the service. Sony’s higher end TV sets, including the A95L QD-OLED TV from 2023 and the BRAVIA 7, 8 and 9 MiniLED and OLED sets from 2024, all come with credits to rent or purchase movies via the service and are all capable of decoding the DTS:X soundtrack. Very few of Sony’s other TVs can decode the DTS:X immersive soundtrack in IMAX Enhanced content, so other options (including Dolby Atmos and standard DTS Surround sound) are offered as audio options. Sony is expanding its DTS:X decoding capability in its 2024 BRAVIA TV line-up.

The Disney+ streaming service offers select titles in IMAX Enhanced. Access to the IMAX Enhanced aspect ratio is delivered when available (but not necessarily all of the added video processing features). The aspect ratio options may be viewed on any 4K UHD TV as determined by the streaming device manufacturer and content provider.

Disney+ also usually offers a pure Widescreen option on their IMAX Enhanced titles in addition to the variable aspect ratio option. This is useful for those with CIH Widescreen projection systems or those who simply prefer one unchanging aspect ratio while watching a move. Other streaming services may provide this option as they come on-board. Hopefully, all of the added video processing features will also be implemented.

On May 15th, 2024, Disney+ added a DTS:X soundtrack option to IMAX Enhanced Content. Previously, IMAX Enhanced content was available only in Dolby Atmos or standard Dolby Digital+. At launch, the DTS:X soundtrack feature was only offered on select TVs from Sony, Hisense and TCL in the North America, Europe and Asia, and on Xiaomi, Sharp and Philips TVs in Asia and Europe.

As noted above, IMAX Enhanced DTS:X audio is also available on UHD Blu-ray Discs and on Sony Bravia Core (with select TVs). Check out the full details on how IMAX Enhanced with DTS Sound works with Disney+.

IMAX Enhanced Ultra HD Discs

IMAX Enhanced Certified Devices

Below are some examples of IMAX Enhanced compatible devices that can provide access to the full video and (in some cases) audio capabilities of IMAX Enhanced content via the IMAX Mode setting when connected to compatible content sources and viewing compatible IMAX Enhanced content. 

If you are using IMAX Enhanced 4K UHD Blu-rays as your content source, any UHD Blu-ray player can be used.  Note that this is a sampling of products which are IMAX Enhanced Certified but not a comprehensive list.

TVs (Video)

Video Projectors (Video)

AVRs

Speakers

You can use any speakers you wish, but IMAX has suggested the following:

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Soundbars

IMAX maintains a listing page of IMAX Enhanced Certified Devices (though it does not appear to be comprehensive or updated).

We also found this site that lists all IMAX Enhanced titles, not all of which are available to stream or purchase on physical media.

All in all, this looks like a good way for consumers to enjoy a taste of the IMAX experience at home. We’ll keep this article updated as things progress with IMAX Enhanced and the feature comes to more devices.

Related Reading:

Dolby vs. DTS: Which is Better? The Battle Rages On

DTS:X Sound on IMAX Enhanced with Disney+ – Here’s How to Do It

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Rob

    April 23, 2024 at 4:03 pm

    Yeah, a whopping TEN titles on UHD Blueray disc. This is basically a non starter and for IMAX to sell all of those licenses through OEM’s to customers who then need to spend big money on receiver and video upgrades to watch 10 discs. S_C_A_M! Shame on IMAX for not putting out content after banking all the license fees.

    • Chris Boylan

      April 23, 2024 at 6:19 pm

      You’re right. Not much of a selection on physical media but there are actually close to 70 films that have gotten the IMAX Enhanced treatment, many of which are super-popular movies. Disney+ will have 19 titles when they launch the DTS:X soundtrack option on May 15. Technically anything shot on IMAX cameras or composed for IMAX is eligible to get the IMAX Enhanced treatment. Here’s the most recent list of IMAX Enhanced titles I could find: https://fanon-kingdom.fandom.com/wiki/List_of_films_certified_by_IMAX_Enhanced

      I wouldn’t hold my breath for these to be released on UHD Blu-ray Disc. Sadly, the studios are mostly abandoning physical media. My hope is that Kaleidescape will partner with IMAX in the future. They already have around 50 movies streaming in lossless DTS:X but they’re not an IMAX Enhanced partner (yet). But Kaleidescape is super expensive ($4K for the player plus server storage).

    • Ian White

      April 26, 2024 at 3:34 pm

      Rob,

      Exactly. Content is king and what drives any format. I wouldn’t invest in any format that didn’t have dozens (if not hundreds) of titles. The entire 3D debacle still makes me mad. I knew it would fail. I wrote that it would fail because the home TV environment (on a much smaller screen) took away the benefits of it. I have 30+ UHD BD 3D titles gathering dust on a shelf. I tossed my active 3D glasses years ago. Nobody wanted to watch.

      Best,

      Ian White

      • Chris Boylan

        April 26, 2024 at 9:31 pm

        Yo, Ian,

        Send me your 3D Blu-Rays. I still break out the glasses for certain titles (like “Avatar”) when watching on the projector. A massive 100+ inch screen is really the only time 3D makes sense (IMNSHO). BTW, I think you misspoke — there are no 3D UHD Blu-rays. The UHD Blu-ray format doesn’t have any provision for 3D content in its spec. You are probably thinking of Blu-ray 3D. But I’ll take any UHD discs you don’t want, too. 🙂

        • Ian White

          April 27, 2024 at 12:46 am

          Chief,

          I did want to correct that one sentence but you beat me to it.

          I have over 3,700 movies on BD and UHD 4K BD and I’ll think about what I might send your way. Definitely keeping Avatar.

          I did fix my HD DVD player. Have 48 of those discs in my collection.

          IW

          IW

          • Chris Boylan

            April 27, 2024 at 11:53 pm

            HD-DVD? LOL. I saw one of those players at a Salvation Army a few months ago but I Was not tempted. I do still have a Laserdisc player sitting on a shelf but I sold off my HD-DVD player and discs when it was clear that it was a lost cause.

            I think I still have two copies of Avatar on Blu-ray 3D so I’m good there. I probably only have about 15 or 20 3D titles but we do break them out every once in a while for shits and giggles.

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