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 theatres. 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 four of this ongoing series, I spoke with Daniel Saenz, cinema solutions manager, Harman Professional Solutions to get his perspective.
Digital Cinema Report: Briefly describe your company’s line of cinema sound products and services.
Daniel Saenz: With JBL as the lead, we bring the very best audio technologies to the cinema market. Whether it’s speakers from JBL, Crown amplifiers or signal processing from Lexicon, Harman brings together products and technologies from all worlds and we have the ability to bring technologies from other vertical markets into cinema. Unlike our competitors, who have a limited offering in the cinema space, we have a long and proven legacy of excellence within cinema—especially when you realize JBL was awarded a citation by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1936.
DCR: What are you highlighting at CinemaCon 2016?
DS: There are two main messages at CinemaCon this year. Our product message at CinemaCon this year is that we’ve redesigned our industry-leading JBL cinema surround loudspeaker offer. The most recent being the 9350 high-output/ high-impact surround system, which truly changes the way surrounds can be used in immersive audios. The 9350 is a 3-way, 15-inch system with a configurable coverage pattern that provides much better coverage with fewer speakers. With three patent pending technologies, the 9350 is a different design approach for cinemas based on immersive requirements. The 9300 and 9310 2-way passive loudspeaker systems are new as well. The 9300 and 9310 represent what the market expects from JBL in terms of speaker technology and performance.
Also on the product front, we will be focusing on the QuantumLogic Immersion technology from Lexicon. Introduced at CinemaCon last year and shipping for several months, we will be highlighting our successes with this product all around the world. It’s been an exciting 12 months and we look forward to capitalizing on our successes with QLI. We’ll be showing off the QLI technology in our booth.
From the system standpoint, we are highlighting Harman’s ability to deliver a complete package. No one has a deeper product catalog than Harman Professional Cinema Solutions, which translates into system depth. Whether an exhibitor is looking for the latest speaker technology to line array technology to high-density amplifiers or immersive solutions, VIP rooms to the largest of venues to the smallest of venues, Harman has the appropriate product mix based on the customer solution. Harman Professional Cinema Solutions has the largest product catalog of anyone in the cinema industry.
DCR: In your view, what have been the biggest changes in cinema sound in the past decade?
DS: Right now, everyone is talking about immersive sound. I would take this a step further to say that the trend is really for providing better and better sound. Immersive sound is big, impressive and wonderful, but from Harman’s point of view, we’re focused on developing better technologies and a better sound for the entire market. Whether it’s better drivers or better pattern control, cinema owners of all size are looking for a premium sound solution that is impactful, and that they can scale and grow with in a cost-effective way.
DCR: Do exhibitors in general appreciate the value of sound in movie theatres? Do their patrons?
DS: The short answer is yes. Sound quality, coverage and intelligibility are critical parts of the entire experience. The sound system is an intricate part of the total experience. Having a floor to ceiling, wall to wall screen isn’t as impactful as a below average sound system. The exhibitors realize this and value the sound within the room. A good movie, presented with great sound on a big screen, with crisp video, more comfortable chairs and better amenities — that’s what the patron is looking for. The sound is a critical part of creating an impactful experience.
DCR: Can you provide some examples of the responses you’ve heard?
DS: We’re in process of getting the 9350 in front of customers. We don’t have testimonials yet. I may be able to send a QLI case study when complete close to the end of next week.
DCR: Are cinema sound standards necessary to advance the cause of better quality audio in movie theatres?
DS: Cinema sound standards help set an entry-level expectation that can be used as a growth point. It’s a good place to start, and a good way to assure a level of quality for the industry and the audience, but we ought to be looking at what we can do to exceed the standard. Sound standards are important, but at the end of the day, exhibitors need solutions that sound good, are reliable, scalable, and affordable. Harman Professional Solutions is uniquely equipped to provide just such cinema solutions.