Movie theatres are getting bigger again and exhibitors have learned that audiences are willing to pay for the kind of immersive entertainment that simply can’t be duplicated in the typical home theatre. This trend has only increased the demand that the audio match, or even surpass the quality of the images on the big screen. Cinema sound has never been bigger or more important. Understanding that, Digital Cinema Report reached out to key manufacturers to learn what developments in sound technology they’ll be highlighting when the exhibition industry gathers next month at CinemaCon 2016 in Las Vegas. In part two of this ongoing series, I spoke with Brian Claypool, senior director strategic business development, digital cinema, Barco to get his perspective.
Digital Cinema Report: Briefly describe your company’s line of cinema sound products and services.
Brian Claypool: Via a unique three-layer approach, the Auro 11.1 by Barco cinema sound technology creates the most immersive motion picture experience, enveloping audiences with truly realistic sound. With the evolution of an open format for immersive sound, Barco has introduced AuroMax, a system that incorporates the best characteristics of object-based technology into the most realistic immersive experience offered by the Auro format.
DCR: What are you highlighting at CinemaCon 2016?
BC: This year, we will be showcasing a fully immersive experience of Barco Cinema solutions on a scale never before seen or felt. Attendees will step into a world comprising four key Barco experience areas, offering unmatched sight and sound technologies designed to re-ignite the magic of the movies: laser projection technology; multi-screen, panoramic format Barco Escape; immersive sound solution AuroMax; and an innovative digital signage system for today’s theater lobby. Visitors will see how these solutions combine to elevate the quality of visualization and enhance engagement at every touchpoint, providing a unique experience before, during and after the show.
DCR: In your view, what have been the biggest changes in cinema sound in the past decade?
BC: Clearly the evolution to object based immersive sound is a paradigm shift in how sound mixes are performed created and distributed. There are multiple approaches to immersive sound in the market. Without going into what is better or worse, object based mixing is a huge shift from traditional channel based workflows and that fact alone is significant.
DCR: Do exhibitors in general appreciate the value of sound in movie theatres? Do their patrons?
BC: Great sound has a clear impact on the quality of the experience, but we must be careful to make sure that the experience retains a natural representation of audio to our valued audiences and not just making films be perceived as louder. Technology providers must be careful to not only create approaches to sound that engages and attracts audiences to the cinema but also does not call unwanted attention to itself.
Sound is part of a vast creative palate of tools that content creators have to tell their story but unlike other tools, sound has a powerful connection to shaping the emotional scenery of a film. Immersive sound has the ability to further enhance these connections with the audience, if used appropriately.
DCR: Can you provide some examples of the responses you’ve heard?
BC: Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks said, “The Barco financial proposition for the exhibitors is far more attractive, far more doable and far more practical. The ability that this will be able to roll out worldwide and be something that is affordable is critical, and this is the highest quality with the best affordability.”
David Soren, the director of Turbo said, “It really enhances the experience.”
Matthew Wood, re-recording mixer, Skywalker Sound said, “It gives you more realism.”
Randy Thom, Academy Award winning sound mixer said, “It does add a dimension to the sound without being gimmicky, without calling attention to itself.”
And a random audience member after Auro 11.1 screening of Turbo at Cine Europe 2013 said, “You have managed to make the sound more enveloping and immersive without it hurting.”
DCR: Are cinema sound standards necessary to advance the cause of better quality audio in movie theatres?
BC: Standards are necessary to drive the adoption of immersive sound technologies in exhibition as well as production for (at minimum), the following reasons:
Creating one format allows the mixers to focus their efforts on one version of the sound track rather than dividing up their limited time creating multiple versions. The quality and quantity of immersive mixes could improve as a result.
Creating a standardized way of distributing that sound track combined with baseline performance standards will allow the market to innovate with technologies that best represent artistic intent but also allow exhibits to implement such systems at price points that are economically viable.