The Basics of The Rolling Loop IMAX Projector
IMAX Dome Luxury, Copenhagen, Denmark
This article first appeared in
The 70mm Newsletter
Written By: Chief projectionist Rene Sørensen, Tycho Brahe Planetarium & Omnimax Theatre.
Pictures by Thomas Hauerslev
Issue 48 - March 1997
of the Tycho Brahe Planetarium
The IMAX system has its' roots in Montreal's EXPO 1967, where
multi-screen films were the hit of the fair. A small group of Canadian film
makers/ entrepreneurs, (Graeme Ferguson, Roman Kroiter and Robert Kerr), who had made some
of those popular films, decided to design a new system using a single, powerful projector,
rather than the cumbersome multiple projector systems used at that time. The result: The
IMAX motion picture projection system which would revolutionize giant screen cinema.
IMAX premiered at the Fuji Pavilion at EXPO 1970 in
Osaka, Japan. The first permanent IMAX projection system was installed at Ontario Place
Cinesphere in Toronto in 1971. Dome screen Omnimax, its' sister system, debuted at
the Ruben H. Fleet Space Theatre in San Diego on March 10, 1973. A few years ago the trade
name Omnimax was changed to IMAX Dome.
The IMAX image 70mm/15 Perf. is ten times larger than a
conventional 35mm/4 perf. frame and three times larger than a standard 70mm/5
Further in 70mm reading:
The First 70MM IMAX
Cinema in England
The Passing of Bill
Shaw - IMAX Pioneer
IMAX, IMAX Dome,
IMAX Solidi, IMAX 3D, IMAX Magic Carpet, IMAX HD
Tycho Brahe Planetarium
& Omimax Theatre
Gammel Kongevej 10
1782 Copenhagen V
Phone: +45 3312 1224
Web site www.tycho.dk
The Rolling Loop projector at the Tycho
Brahe Planetarium & IMAX Dome theatre, Copenhagen.
IMAX and IMAX Dome projectors
are the most advanced, highest precision and most powerful projectors ever built. The key
to their superior performance and reliability is the unique Rolling Loop film
movement system, used in no other projector. The Rolling Loop was invented by Ron Jones
The film run horizontally 24 frames per sec. in a smooth,
wave-like motion. During projection, each frame is positioned on fixed registration pins,
and the film is held firmly against the rear element of the lens by a vacuum. As a result,
the picture and focus steadiness is far above normal standard. The projector mechanism has
six mechanical components which must act in precise synchronism to advance the film, frame
by frame, with high accuracy and negligible wear and tear. These elements make up what is
called the Rolling Loop Film Transport System.
Rotor (1) and front section of
1: Rotor. A 37,5 inch diameter drum containing eight
windows or gaps, each of which forms a loop or wave in the film as it passes the input
sprocket, and then advances the film by carrying the loops past the aperture.
Input Sprocket (2) and Rotary Air Valve
2: Input Sprocket. A sprocket is driven in
synchronism with the rotor to feed one frame of film (15 perforations) per rotor gap. It
positions the film so that the cam pins enter the intended perforation at a precisely
Registration Pins (4) and Cam Unit (3).
3: Cam Unit. A mechanism which oscillates the
film-engaging pins or claws (two pins at each edge of the film) to catch and slow down the
film, fed by the input sprocket, and to preposition the perforations which are engaged by
the registration pins at the aperture.
4: Registration Pins. Four fixed pins (one at each
edge of the aperture) which engage the film perforations to precisely position the film
5: Output Sprocket. Like input sprocket, it
rotates in sync with the rotor.
6: Rotary Air Valve. This valve, which has one
outlet for each rotor gap, pulses air to a row of jets at the rotor gap as it passes the
input sprocket in order to help shape and accelerate the loop of film which forms in the
gap at that point.
A typical lift off in Omnimax
The images are moved every time
the rotor gap passes the aperture block with a "wave" of one frame (15
perforations). The images are then fixed by the four pins on the aperture block, helped by
the vacuum on the lens, in order to keep the pictures in focus. Between every rotor gap a
shutter is placed so the pictures are shown twice. This 68 per cent shutter transmits one
third more light then does the 50 per cent shutter in conventional projectors.
The IMAX projector is equipped with a 15.000 watt water
cooled Xenon lamp. In smaller theatres a 4.000 watt lamp is enough.
The IMAX Dome projector is the same type projector as an
IMAX; the lens design is different, however. IMAX Dome was developed for use in tilted
planetarium- type domes. The projector and lens are located slightly behind and above the
center of the dome (the planetarium's star projector is placed in the geometric center of
IMAX Dome produces a picture extending 180 degrees
horizontally, about 100 degrees above the horizon and 22 degrees below. Our dome in
Copenhagen is 23 meters (76 feet) in diameter. The dome surface area is 1000 square
meters; 800 square meters are used for IMAX Dome projection. The screen is made of many
small plates of aluminum with 20% of the area perforated with holes. You can see through
the screen if the backstage area is lit up. The maximum size of an IMAX screen is 26 x 35
meters (87' x 17') and 27 meters in diameter for an IMAX Dome screen.
The Omnimax in Copenhagen
A total of 144 IMAX/IMAX
Dome theatres are currently operating world wide [By 1996/97]. There are more than 110
IMAX films. If you have any IMAX related questions please do not hesitate to ask Rene Sørensen directly through E-mail or through ..in 70mm - The 70mm Newsletter.
Sources: IMAX Fact Sheet and J. Creighton Douglas
is IMAX . and why".
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