The Fleet Science Center gets a Makeover

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Wed, 01/13/2010 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

San Diego’s Reuben H. Fleet Science Center home to the world’s first IMAX dome theatre recently underwent a renovation that focused largely on its sound system. The Fleet Center often runs six different films per day requiring very different audio settings for each performance.   Program material varies widely from the Center’s primary focus on educational material to pure entertainment IMAX presentations such as The Rolling Stones - At The Max Chronos and Stomp Odyssey.  With the new design levels and other settings can now be programmed well ahead of time ensuring both smoother operations and spontaneous elements including announcements inserts and customized for walk in/walk out music via iTunes.   “QSC was the place to go because the products first of all sounded the best and they were the most responsive company as far as coming back and saying ‘yes we’ll build you what you want ’” says John Young A/V specialist for the Center.   Although there were significant cost efficiencies in the purchase Young says “Cost savings wasn’t the first thing on our list.  We wanted the best thing we could possibly get.  QSC Audio has rock solid gear.” The theatre features a 6.1 surround sound system designed by QSC plus ProTools HD 3 Accel playback. San Diego’s Michael Krewitsky of Pro Sound designed the system. He says “Another reason why QSC got it is because the company has really been focusing on the cinema speaker business - speakers for actual movie theatres.  And these are a specialized version of their cinema line.  This is theatre stuff that’s adapted especially for surround and IMAX.  QSC has been really pushing the envelope on this kind of new technology.” Barry Ferrell QSC’s senior director of cinema solutions says “QSC Audio has long been the mainstay in movie theatre power amplification because of our reputation for reliability and to some extent transparent sound.  But some of our more demanding customers have become increasingly unhappy with their older speaker systems because film producers have been raising the bar for what needs to be reproduced accurately in theatrical releases.  That pushed us not just to enter the theatre speaker market but to do so with a very high bar in mind.” QSC cinema sales director Francois Godfrey says another dimension of the dilemma his customers face is that “Industry observers point out that if theatre owners don’t exceed the level of quality people experience in their own home theatres it’s a recipe for declining theatre attendance.  Since there’s every reason to believe the audio challenges from the film community won’t get any easier we saw establishing a clear lead in accurate reproduction as a strategic necessity.” Ferrell adds “If you’re marketing to owners competing on exceptional theatre experiences there’s really no point offering prosaic ‘me too’ solutions.” Ferrell admits not every theatre owner now believes better than prosaic audio quality is a business necessity.  “But there’s substantial agreement among theatre industry analysts that it’s just a matter of time before the combined hammer of slimming margins and attendance declines force a change ” he says. “Several people who have heard this newest IMAX have stated it’s easily the best sounding IMAX theatre in the world ” says Krewitsky.   QSC Audio