IMAX system of
motion picture photography and projection has revolutionized
the way the world experiences the movies.
Its story is one of engineering ingenuity and persistence.
At Expo '67 in Montreal, audiences were thrilled
by multi-image presentations. Surrounded by screens
and filling their field of vision, these presentations,
which involved using many different projectors to
show multiple, large images simultaneously, took
movie-going to a whole new height. There were
problems however; maintenance and synchronization
were difficult and operation of the complex projectors
Three young Canadians -- Roman Kroitor, Graeme Ferguson
and Robert Kerr -- knew that they could come up
with a better, all-in-one system. It was already
known that turning 70 mm film sideways created three
times the image area. However, traditional
projectors wouldn't take sideways film.
A rolling loop projector prototype from Australia
only used 35 mm film but seemed to be a step in
the right direction. They asked Bill Shaw,
P.Eng., a mechanical engineer, to take on the challenge
of marrying the film with the projector.
Over the next year and a half, Mr. Shaw and his
team built three prototypes and chewed up a lot
of film in their quest to make the system work.
The larger film required more force to advance it
through the projector. Yet more force meant
that the film would bunch up or tear. Finally,
in late 1969, they came up with a way to make the
two work together. It is a system that has
Film images measuring 10 times larger than conventional
35mm frames and three times bigger than standard
70 mm frames advance through the unique Arolling
loop@ projector, and the controlled, wave-like motion
of the film results in extraordinary clarity and
Bill Shaw has won many awards over the years, including
the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Leonardo
Da Vinci Award. In presenting the award, the
Society noted that it was unusual to see a mechanical
engineering development that is still state-of-the-art
30 years later.
IMAX Corporation also received a Scientific
and Engineering Award from the Academy of Motion
Picture Arts and Sciences which, in 1997, was upgraded
to an Oscar.