NATO UNIC Release Exhibitor Sound Requirements

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Wed, 02/13/2013 - 19:00 -- Nick Dager

The National Association of Theatre Owners and the Union Internationale des Cinémas have released cinema exhibitor requirements for immersive sound technologies. Noting the rapid pace of cinema technology development ushered in by the world-wide conversion to digital cinema projection the technology committees of both organizations believe that while technological innovation is vital for the cinema business new technologies must be carefully managed and introduced into the cinema environment. With that goal in mind the committees have issued today’s exhibitor requirements. Neither organization currently endorses this emerging technology whether called 3D audio object-based audio or immersive audio – nor any proprietary sound format. However both organizations believe it is essential that whatever audio rendering solution an individual cinema may choose it must be capable of playing whatever movie is released with immersive sound. The Exhibitor Requirements explore two possible paths to that goal. AMC Theatres’ executive vice president operations and NATO Technology Committee chairman John McDonald said “It is in nobody’s interest – not exhibitors studio or vendors – to repeat our experience of the multiple proprietary and incompatible digital sound formats of the 1990s. While it is critical that we continue to innovate it is also critical that we work together to implement new technologies in a rational manner that serves all stakeholders. These Exhibitor Requirements represent a first step in that process.” Kim Pedersen UNIC vice-president and chair of the organization's recently established technology committee said “High quality sound is essential to ensuring an attractive and competitive cinema-going experience. We must however ensure that new innovations in sound can be harnessed by all exhibitors. We therefore welcome the fact that our colleagues at NATO have initiated this important dialogue regarding the latest developments around immersive sound.” Immersive Sound Requirements Prepared by NATO’s and UNIC’s Technology Committees Introduction NATO’s and UNIC’s Technology Committees have a mission of encouraging new technologies that may benefit the entire industry. To that end we believe new in-theater sound systems have the potential to bring new experiences to our patrons. At this time NATO/UNIC are not endorsing immersive sound or any proprietary immersive sound system but we believe it is important for NATO/UNIC to identify requirements necessary to bring immersive sound into our theaters. We hope to work with studios service providers and equipment manufacturers in understanding and refining our requirements. Requirements It is critical that there not be multiple proprietary solutions for theaters. It is essential that a theater that selects one rendering solution would be able to play all movies that include immersive sound without needing multiple rendering solutions. There are two approaches to this: Approach 1) A single common immersive sound package as a common deliverable or 2) that ALL movies include ALL of the proprietary delivery tracks. Approach 1) would follow in the footsteps of DCI for a common deliverable. The immersive sound files should be included in the DCP of a delivered movie in addition to the defined sound formats: i.e. 5.1/7.1 with HI/VI.   In both of these approaches theaters can choose the rendering solution without concern that they would “miss out” on a particular movie experience. As new enhancements are added to the Theatrical Experience it is important to maintain single inventory of DCP’s with assured backward interoperability. Suggested Approach NATO and UNIC believe that the first approach of a common deliverable would be a better solution due to the additional complexity of approach 2 including the deliverable size DCP/CPL identification and additional number of keys. NATO and UNIC would entertain other solutions that meet our objectives to avoid in-theater confusion. We will hold discussions with our studio partners to understand the viability and limitations of the solutions. In parallel we will work with studios and vendors in developing an approach for a common deliverable. We need to understand the viability of a common delivery format especially the potential limitations.