Do You Know the Difference Between "Filmed for IMAX" and "Shot with IMAX"?

Jordan Peele shooting 'NOPE' with IMAX Credit: Everett/Everett Collection
The phrasing is a little misleading, so let’s clear up the confusion. 

Jordan Peele’s upcoming sci-fi horror film, NOPE, is arriving in theaters soon, which means we get to look at the beautiful film poster outside of our local cinemas. Maybe you’ve noticed while looking at the poster, right beneath the film’s title, that the film was "shot with IMAX film cameras."

You might be thinking to yourself, "What does 'shot with IMAX' even mean?"

There is a difference between the phrasing, "Shot with IMAX," and "Filmed for IMAX," which you also might have seen on other movie posters, but the difference between camera quality is minimal. 

Let me explain.

Shot with IMAX

“Shot with IMAX” simply means that the film was filmed with IMAX 65mm cameras. There are a small number of “real” IMAX cameras. Y.M. Cinema Magazine states that the reason IMAX initiated the “Filmed in IMAX” program is to allow more productions to fill IMAX theaters, which elevates profit while recognizing highly capable cameras that IMAX certifies. 

Until now, when examining the films made for IMAX theaters, a very small portion of IMAX 65mm film cameras were used in productions. For instance, the most used camera in 2021 films screened on IMAX was the ARRI Alexa Mini. The MSM 9802, which was used in Peele’s NOPE and Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, was at the bottom of Y.M. Cinema’s list, clearly demonstrating the justifying the logic behind developing more 65mm film cameras. 

Although Peele did not use the next generation of IMAX cameras for NOPE, we are excited to see the upcoming new release of IMAX cameras expand and offer a quieter and less complex camera for filmmakers. This doesn't mean that the IMAX 65mm can't be used to create beautiful images. 

NOPE was shot by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who is often Nolan’s cinematic partner, using Kodak film, including 65mm film in IMAX format. Hoytema is known for specializing in 65mm film cameras and has earned some decent running time shooting on them. 

Nolan, who is obsessed with the quality of IMAX cameras, will be using the IMAX 65mm in "new, novel ways" for Oppenheimer according to IMAX CEO Rich Gelfond at the Screen International in Cannes last month. Oppenheimer is the first film to shoot sections in IMAX black and white analog photography, introducing a new visual experience to its audience. 

Filmed for IMAX

In contrast, Top Gun: Maverick was shot on Sony VENICE, which is IMAX certified, hence why the movie poster states that the film was filmed for IMAX. VENICE is an elite high-end cinema camera that was approved by IMAX to be able to shoot for an IMAX theater. 

Other cameras that share the same space as Sony VENICE are Alexa LF, Alexa Mini, Alexa 65, Panavision DXL2, and the RED Ranger Monstro. 

For the IMAX “Film for IMAX” program, which defines the cinema cameras that can shoot for its theaters, the production is supervised by IMAX, which determines the protocol, best practices, and methodologies for shooting the format. 

'Y.M. Cinema's' Camera List from 2021Credit: Y.M. Cinema

Which Is Better?

Honestly, it’s hard to state which method of filming is better. There are obvious perks to filming with the 65mm, like that it produces richer and more pleasing imagery, but the downside is its price and complexity. Nolan would tell you that the camera is totally worth the hassle, but the decision is truly yours to make. 

You can always read our breakdown of the IMAX-certified cameras that are listed above to see which one might be best suited for you, if you happen to be filming for an IMAX theater. 

Are you team “Shot with IMAX” or “Filmed for IMAX”? Let us know in the comments!      

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1 Comment

I'm not so convinced at this point that it still matters.

Last films I've seen in IMAX- Captain Marvel (Alexa 65), Godzilla King of the Monsters (Alexa 65), Dune (Alexa LF), Top Gun Maverick (Sony VENICE). Trailers in front of Top Gun included Bullet Train (Alexa LF), Mission Impossible 7 (LF and VENICE), Thor 4 (LF) and Nope (70mm and IMAX 15-70 film). You'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the trailer for Nope and all the others shot on IMAX-approved digital cameras, even on a giant 4K screen.

If directors and DPs want to shoot on "real" IMAX obviously that's their prerogative and I'm sure the 20 people who still live close to a 15-70 theater appreciate it. But these new digital cameras look so good I don't feel cheated at all paying extra to see that footage on a bigger screen.

July 1, 2022 at 12:50PM

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