Imax plans next-gen 3D digital camera

News comes on heels of joint venture 3D TV network

TORONTO -- Giant-screen pioneer Imax on Thursday unveiled plans to build and launch a 3D digital camera to take movie and TV content to a new dimension.

The announcement of a next-generation 3D camera, planned for a 2011 rollout after a prototype is completed this year, follows news this week that Toronto-based Imax is to partner with Discovery Communications and Sony Corp. to launch a cable TV network devoted to 3D content.

The news also coincides with the release of James Cameron's "Avatar," which has broken boxoffice records for Imax.

"Given the significant amount of 3D content being developed over the past 12-18 months, requests from filmmakers for an Imax 3D digital camera, consumer appetite for the Imax experience and this week's joint venture announcement for the 3D television network, we believe the timing of this initiative could not be better," said Greg Foster, chairman and president of Imax filmed entertainment.

Since the 1980s, Imax has developed a series of analog 3D cameras that use two lenses to simultaneously record images on two film strips, one for each eye. The film is later projected in stereo on the giant Imax screens as part of Imax's proprietary 3D system.

But as the exhibitor transitions to digital projection, Imax said a digital 3D camera will provide premium content for its theater network, content for its joint venture 3D TV network with Discovery and Sony and lower overall production costs for 3D filmmaking by shedding expensive film stock.

As with Imax's traditional 3D camera, the proposed digital 3D camera will be made available to studios and other movie producers for content production.