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So, using such logic, IMAX must be a terrible idea? Are you also saying that film viewing equates with digital video viewing? The imaging scientists have been saying since NHK's seminal human perceptual factors research that a 1920 x 1080 HD image would be best viewed by most people no closer than a distance resulting in a 30 degree viewing angle. For humans with 20/20 average visual acuity, any closer results in the visibility of individual pixels in the picture. In other words, clouds, sky, faces, etc., start to have an unnatural texture. This can disrupt the willing suspension of disbelief for viewers. Pixels being visible in the image has also been tied to viewing fatigue and eye strain.

Other guides used by experts for recommended 1080p HD viewing distance include: three times the screen height, or 1.5 times the diagonal of 16 x 9 screens. The formulas for calculating a 30 degree viewing angle are: Viewing distance x .5359 = screen width Screen width x 1.866 = viewing distance Some projectors have featured methods to diminish pixel definition by improving fill factor. This has only been marginally effective. At a certain point, viewing these devices from much closer softens the image and diminishes perceived intra-image contrast. Film has an amorphous grain structure that allows closer seating distances, but only up to the point the picture starts to look unnaturally soft.

These are not hard and fast rules, due to variations in visual acuity from one viewer to the next. However, these principles of imaging science allow a good starting point for considering how to design an effective video system. As I have become more familiar with what constitutes a reference image, my preferred seating location in commercial cinemas has moved farther from the screen. A sharper picture looks more natural to me, and therefore more involving. Picture size is not the only factor to be considered in evaluating how immersive the viewing experience will be.

Best regards and beautiful pictures, Alan Brown, President CinemaQuest, Inc.

"Advancing the art and science of electronic imaging"