Outside Researched Views Immersive

The leaders want something great that no one else can have so they can attract the great clients. This is true in production, in post-productin and in now more commonly in exhibition. Do they want to have competing systems that mean that their big-super-room is locked out from 50% of the movies? Probably not 50%, but there is a number that is probably palatable. To discuss it another point has to be made.

Digital Cinema in full transition has been 100% of digits-to-the-chip with some standard deliverable to all the cinema theaters. It couldn’t have worked with only 10% of the facilities making the change. Paragraphs could be written on this point, but not now.

Immersive audio isn’t in that category. There will not be 100% saturation of immersive audio ever. Does anyone venture to say that it will reach 20%? Even with less expensive systems built from less robust hardware and technical support, the majority will find that it is too expensive to put in the dozens of even more expensive amplifiers and speakers in the majority of their auditoriums. Which fits in with a lot of other points that say: there is and always will be a myriad of rooms with different capabilities. 

When M:I5 got kicked out of the best room in the house for its tepid replacement, it goes to a lesser room and most of the remaining audience won’t care. The movie is enough of a ride or they kick themselves for going late or whatever. Most facilities probably won’t have a 2nd great room to move it into. And if a movie comes along that is mixed exclusively in another format – for the super sound system – it will also have a standard 5.1 or 7.1 mix that will play just fine for the majority of the audience. 

What is the message when an exhibition company says (as Randi writes): “The cinema owners are concerned about investing in one format only for another to become the standard. To quote one panel member, “No one wants to own an HD-DVD when the world has gone Blu-ray.””

First, false corollary. There will always be the uncompressed 5.1 or 7.1 mix that, when in a room that is properly tuned, will rock most listeners regardless that it ain’t an AuroMax or Atmos or DTS:X/MDA variant. What they are probably saying is, I don’t want to have what everyone else has, especially if it is Dolby, because they are ubiquitous and I want special. But I also don’t want to get stuck with something that will be a doorstop in a few years…and they are thinking in the back of their minds: No one ever got fired for buying IBM Dolby. 

Fair enough, but when the majority of the cost is in speakers and amplifiers and wiring that can be plugged into the winning system, best you can hope for is that you can market whatever you buy in the time that it was special. Good luck. Basically, it isn’t the same as it was when a $30,000 investment in the best film projector possible would last for 30 years or more. Servers and projectors that cost 3 times as much and last for 10 years will be held in high regard. It used to be that changing the DTS or Dolby or SDDS head at $15 grand was a huge unthinkable sum. That’s just not the way it is anymore. 

There is other nuance in what Randi writes. There is a most important question that shouldn’t be ignored: Of whether a perfectly homogenized system that can input anything and playback to what-I-installed …will actually sound as good as something that is input/output to the system it was mixed in?. This is where a writer who is on the committees has to be careful. Nobody can talk about Fight Club. You don’t have to go to the SMPTE committee meetings to know that theory says: It is just algorithms and laws of physics. On the other hand, this author’s grandfather helped figure out how to get lights working in an under-river tunnel that 10 years previous had to be given up on because electricity science had gotten that far for that distance yet.

Choose your speakers and amps and cables wisely.


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