IMAX makes major VR moves

Motion picture technology company IMAX has unveiled big plans for the VR space, including the development of a cinema-grade camera with Google, and a partnership with StarVR headset company Starbreeze that will result in six VR exhibition sites.
May 19, 2016

IMAX is making major plays within the VR space.

The American-Canadian theater exhibition company and camera and projection system manufacturer has revealed a virtual reality content strategy that will see it team with Google to create a cinema-grade virtual reality camera, and also partner with Starbreeze, the Swedish company behind the StarVR headset, on various initiatives, including opening up six sites to exhibit VR content.

The IMAX VR camera will be built to utilize Google’s Jump 3D 360-degree technology, allowing filmmakers and content creators to deliver high-quality VR experiences to consumers worldwide.

Engineers and camera specialists from IMAX and Google will work to design a line of high-resolution cameras from conception to delivery.

Under the partnership with Google, announced on May 19 at Google’s annual developer conference, Google I/O – IMAX will also provide Google with exclusive access to its pre-existing documentary line-up for conversion and use with Google’s VR technology.

“VR marks an exciting area of opportunity for IMAX and we believe this agreement, which enables us to participate in image capture and content creation, is an important first step in our broader VR strategy,” said IMAX Corporation CEO Richard L. Gelfond in a statement.

That strategy was further revealed with the announcement of the partnership between IMAX and Starbreeze, developers of the StarVR headset technology, which provides a 210-degree full peripheral field of view. That’s double the scope of any other VR headset currently available, according to Starbreeze.

The pact will see IMAX create “a premium VR experience” that will use the StarVR headsets, with Starbreeze’s existing VR entertainment and game content and the new content created with the Google/IMAX camera being showcased in select multiplexes, commercial locations such as shopping malls and tourist destinations, and six sites to be launched domestically and internationally over the course of the year. A representative for IMAX has confirmed to realscreen that the first “test” site for IMAX VR will land in Los Angeles.

The joint venture will be housed under the IMAX brand, with IMAX providing product design, management and installation capabilities as well as sales, marketing and communications support. Starbreeze, meanwhile, will contribute the software platform, hardware, technical and product support. For content, IMAX will leverage its vast network of filmmakers and exhibitor relationships, while Starbreeze will also utilize its interactive developing and publishing relationships.

“We believe VR is an area that holds tremendous promise and is a natural progression for IMAX given our established worldwide brand presence, our immersive entertainment technology know-how, and strong industry relationships with filmmakers, studios and exhibitors,” said IMAX’s Gelfond regarding the Starbreeze deal and the company’s broader VR strategy.

“We want everyone to have an accessible and exciting premium VR experience in cinema complexes and commercial locations all around the world,” added Starbreeze CEO Bo Andersson Klint in a statement. “This open content platform will entertain and excite millions of people globally.”

(With files from Daniele Alcinii)

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.