In recent years, 3D technology has advanced dramatically, providing viewers with immersive cinematic experiences.

Two popular 3D technologies in use today are IMAX 3D and RealD 3D. Although both offer three-dimensional viewing, there are key differences between them that can influence the quality of the viewing experience.

In this blog post, we will explore the differences between IMAX 3D and RealD 3D.

Real D 3D vs IMAX 3D: Picture Quality


IMAX Digital Auditoriums use dual 2k projectors in their theaters to display their movies, meanwhile, Real D 3D auditoriums use 1 projector, typically of lesser quality.

The dual 2k projectors that IMAX 3D uses allow for brighter and crisper images when watching the movie in 3D.

Also, the curved nature of the screen as well as IMAX seating (sits closer to the screen) allows for a more immersive experience because it gives the audience a better point of view than Real D 3D.

Another difference between IMAX and Real D is that they use different polarizing technologies. IMAX 3D uses linear polarization, while Real D 3D uses circular polarization.

When watching films in IMAX 3D it is recommended that you don’t tilt your head too much because the 3D image can become fuzzy.

Although this technology leads to a more in-depth image it can cause you a headache if you’re moving your head too much. Meanwhile, Real D 3D does not have this problem.

However, the technology IMAX 3D uses allows for brighter 3D images which alleviates a common complaint amongst many people, which is that 3D images are too dark.

Expanded Aspect Ratio

I should also mention that IMAX has its own expanded Aspect Ratio for films shot on IMAX cameras. The aspect ratios that are exclusive to IMAX are 1.90:1 and 1.43:1.

These ratios allow for a much taller image without sacrificing the depth and wide-screen appeal of other aspect ratios.

In layman’s terms, films shown in IMAX cameras do not have black bars at the top and bottom of the screen as your typical widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio does.

This is the IMAX experience and is the biggest appeal of the format, images shot in IMAX feel gigantic and life-like. I should mention that very few films are shot with IMAX cameras though.

Most films released in the IMAX format are shot in 2.39:1 and audiences do not get that expanded ratio.

Make sure to check the technical specifications of the film you are seeing to verify it was shot in either 1.90:1 or 1.43:1.

Although this expanded aspect ratio is cool you can still get this effect at home with the proper 4k Blu-Ray, although nowhere near the size and scale of the screen in a theater. The Dark Knight 4K Blu-Ray (affiliate link) has an expanded aspect ratio for IMAX and it looks amazing.


Real D 3D auditoriums use sound systems that are used in regular digital cinemas, nothing too special, usually a 5.1 or 7.1 channel system. IMAX Digital offers a similar system but typically adds additional height channels.

The sound is also much louder in IMAX auditoriums as the sound levels are strictly enforced and moderated by IMAX.

The subwoofers in IMAX theaters are also much more potent than in standard auditoriums, the bass is much louder.

Meanwhile, IMAX with Laser utilizes a 12-channel system that is a significant upgrade over IMAX digital.

Screen Size

As mentioned before the curved nature of an IMAX screen allows for more optimal and immersive viewing when watching a film in 3D.

Also, IMAX screens in general are much larger than screens found in Real D 3D auditoriums. Real D incorporates its technology on standard-sized screens for the most part which are much smaller than IMAX screens.

Even the smallest of IMAX screens (IMAX digital) are likely to be much larger than Real D screens.

IMAX screen size fluctuates so check your local location. The IMAX screens that are typically the largest are the ones that display their images in 70mm film.


IMAX 3D tickets are noticeably more expensive than Real D 3D, mostly because the technology is more advanced and it is not as widely available.

Real D 3D ticket prices can be anywhere from 11-18 dollars depending on where you live and when you choose to see the film (matinee/evening/weekday/weekend).

Meanwhile, IMAX 3D tickets are usually anywhere from 14-25 dollars. IMAX with Laser 3D can get even pricier.


In conclusion, both IMAX 3D and RealD 3D offer unique and stellar 3D viewing experiences. While IMAX 3D provides a brighter, more detailed image on a larger screen, it is also more expensive and less widely available.

RealD 3D, on the other hand, is less expensive and more widely available but provides a slightly dimmer image on a smaller screen.

I think IMAX 3D is the clear winner here, if you are lucky enough to have an IMAX with laser 3D near you then that would be the optimal choice but IMAX 3D is still a fantastic way to see a movie.

Just make sure to not tilt your head while watching the film.

Frequently Asked Questions:

IMAX 2D Vs 3D: What’s The Difference?

There are a lot of blockbuster movies that incorporate 3D technology in Post-production. After the success of Avatar studios have made 3D a priority as it leads to higher ticket prices and more box office earnings.

There are a lot of movies that haphazardly use 3D and it shows. None of the shots are framed with 3D in mind and it results in the image looking silly and more like a gimmick.

I would avoid most 3D movies unless the filmmaker intended it to be in that format or if the filmmaker actively supervised each shot that incorporates 3D in the film.

IMAX 2D is still a solid way to see a movie, the image is brighter than 3D.

Dolby 3D Vs IMAX 3D

Dolby 3D provides a more colorful and vivid image compared to IMAX 3D.

This is on par with most of Dolby’s technologies, as Dolby excels over IMAX with their picture quality, specifically their trademark Dolby vision technology.

Dolby Vision allows for a brighter image and sharper contrast between colors.

Real D 3D vs IMAX with Laser 3D

IMAX 3D is better than Real D 3D and IMAX with Laser is far superior to your typical IMAX digital theater.

IMAX with Laser uses laser projection instead of the typical xenon light bulbs used in IMAX digital theaters.

These laser projection systems display a 4k image which results in a higher contrast image with a more detailed and crisp image.

Also, IMAX with laser utilizes more advanced sound technology, including a 12-channel surround sound system.

IMAX 2D vs Digital Cinema

IMAX 2D beats your typical standard digital auditorium on pretty much every level.

The screens are larger, the sound systems are more advanced and the picture quality is better. This is typical for any premium large format.

Cinema formats like rpx, XD, and DFX etc. make sure to distinguish themselves from standard auditoriums on the factors mentioned.

Prime 3d vs Real d 3d

There is not much difference between Prime 3d and Reald D 3D.

AMC prime does not have many locations left as AMC has converted a lot of those auditoriums to become Dolby Cinemas. AMC Prime is somewhat on its last leg, similar to Big D