Wednesday 11 December 2013


Dear Folks,

The Audience is Listening
Born out of the Star Wars legacy and tied to one of the world’s most acclaimed filmmakers, no other brand resonates with consumers as deeply, and with greater trust than THX.
One week after “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” debuted in theaters, George Lucas hired audio scientist, Tomlinson Holman, to design the audio mixing facilities at Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in Northern California. To begin the project, Lucas gave Holman one year to examine film audio throughout the entire production chain—from the set to the theater, and everything in between. Holman’s goal was to find a way to improve cinematic sound production and create specifications to design the state-of-the-art audio mixing rooms that would eventually house Skywalker Sound.
During that year, Holman was shocked to discover the state of most commercial cinemas. While Dolby Laboratories had made significant contributions to how sound was recorded and played back on film, no one had control over what happened on the production set or in the theater itself. Holman found that most commercial theaters had not seen significant technology improvements since World War II. Viewing angles were poor, inadequate light levels distorted images, and the quality of sound systems and auditorium acoustics made it impossible to hear the dialogue, let alone experience the filmmaker’s vision.

Bringing The THX Experience To Moviegoers

After the Skywalker Sound audio facilities and Stag Theater were completed, Lucasfilm began receiving requests from visiting commercial theater owners and Hollywood studio executives to incorporate the Ranch’s performance standards into their cinema auditoriums and aging mixing rooms. Realizing that this could change the way moviegoers experienced feature films, Lucas and the soon-to-be THX team designed a certification program to go beyond the walls of Skywalker Ranch. Thus, THX was born, and made available to movie audiences to coincide with the release of Lucas’ next film, “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” in 1983.
“While filmmakers were spending millions of dollars and using new computer technology to perfect the sound and picture in the post-production studio, the quality was being lost on movie audiences,” said John Dahl, director of education and resident historian at THX Ltd. “By creating a set of standards for theater design and enforcing performance levels of presentation equipment, THX was ensuring that the film experience would translate from studios to every theater.”
From a technical standpoint, the THX Cinema Certification specifications consolidated presentation technologies from various sources into one set of design standards. These standards extend the frequency range of cinema loudspeakers, resulting in an even distribution of sound throughout the auditorium. They also allow sound designers to extend the dynamic range of sound effects and create a more enveloping presentation.
THX also sets guidelines for room acoustics, reverberation time and background noise, and noise isolation to ensure that every detail of the sonic presentation is accurately delivered the way the filmmaker intended. But it’s not just about sound. THX sets standards for viewing angles, projectors and onscreen lighting levels, to make sure that the best possible image is always displayed.
So THX was always an ideology to ensure that in the build and setup,a Movie could be heard and displayed at optimum.
In the halcyon days of THX,a THX sound system was the best you could have,,ALL equipment had to be THX certified and pass rigorous tests.
The most important elements being the speakers and amplification..
In the late nineties,THX began certification for THX approved Home Theater Installers..that could learn the above ideology and be able to apply into an install...this is not to be confused with the 3/4 day Calibration courses THX offer now which is a variant of the courses ISF (*the Image Sound Foundation) have run for many years.
Indeed,it was always the de facto standard in Cinema installs to have a THX audio system and setup PLUS an ISF calibration..horses for courses,,,
As THX have held the high ground in audio have ISF with video setup...ALL video standards now have been influenced by ISF...all criteria applied..whether on a THX calibration course or a JKP (*Joe Kane) calibration course are built on the foundations that Joel Silver (*president of ISF) established.
I personally trained under Joel Silver some 15 years ago and Sencore trained as well,Alistair gained his Home Theater THX acreditation almost 6 years ago under John Dahl...
Since then,using all this background plus ARRI 35MM setup skills,CRT setup grounding etc we have created CINEMA360..a total ideology encompassing all the best bits from THX,ISF,ARRI,HAA and much more... 
In our systems we lean heavily towards THX certified products and apply requisite criteria in audio and video setup that goes a few steps further in the home than THX in the cinema..with our EXPERT SETUP we are though faithful to the best doctrines of all the above companies as a foundation and a great part of our Cinema360 total ideology. ..
ALL the products we use or custom build  (*like Movie chairs,Acoustic panels etc..) are designed and built with Cinema360 criteria... 
There are other companies that send one of their chaps of a 3/4 day course then tout that cinema as a THX cinema..this is a BLATANT is may have a video setup by a chap that has sat the brief course..but that doesnt make it a THX cinema...
I firmly believe now that with all due respect to THX and all they have done for audio..they have jumped on the video bandwagon of ISF calibrations-added an extra day to the course with the idea being that it can be touted as better...:-)
Well,thats a matter of opinion and not one I share-especially as the criteria they use is heavily lifted from industry standards implemented by ISF and evaluations/diagrams devised by Joel Silver & Joe Kane..
For myself,there are things in the THX mandates and ISF mandates that are terrific..there are other things that can be further improved..the skill of course through experience is knowing what best mix to achieve,,,what makes that total synergy that leads to Cinema Heaven....this experience comes from 40 years some way..with Movies...
My video calibrations for example lean away a little from D65..i see this as a starting point to be improved further and a Cinema360 Expert Setup aims to achieve a more dynamic picture for today era as opposed to certain criteria that attempt to lock us in the 12 ft lambert days of celluloid..
In Video and Audio setup,the real skill is not knowing what to change..but what not have a repository of audio/video references that stretch back over those 40 years...
I have said many times in forums..Rembrandt didn`t paint by numbers-he took the criteria of his day and tweaked and improved upon it to create masterpieces..ALL standards and rules are made to be improved upon by the adept..
in short,one must learn his trade..and that takes many,many years to arrive at Cinema360 total 3/4 day course can ever replace is just part of the learning curve-thats all... 
Of course the god of commercialism wants to sell as many courses as possible to award one with a badge..thats all it is now..the 3/4 day trainees will chant parrot fashion what they do..and not know why..or what is best even..
This ONLY comes with time...many years of time..:-)..the groundwork must go in..
With video setups for example,I have calculated that JUST during the period Projectiondreams were the most prolific CRT seller in Europe that I setup hundreds of different crt projectors..Marquees,Barcos,Sonys,NEC,Dwin,Vidikron,Ampro`s, name it..
In fact the first words Joel Silver ever said to me on my course were-in front of the class.."Heres a guy that already knows about setup"...and I did..i didn`t know the technical explanations as to why I had arrived where I HAD..but I knew already how to focus,align, to achieve accurate brightness with the correct G2 settings,,for example the Sony G90 always had high blue tube G2 settings to gain more brightness..this defocused the blue grid and somewhat softened the entire picture..turn the g2 down on the blue tube a tad made the blue grid as sharp as the green and red,,which made a sharper picture overall....
I found each crt projector had its own foibles..NECs had the best colours,Barcos the best contrast,Sonys were the brightest..Marquees were the best all what was learnt over 5/6 years was exactly had to make each projector shine..
I remember when a customer I was buying a Sony G70 crt projector from had traded up to a G90 9" tube and flown William Phelps over from the U.S. to do his setup..I was excited to see what the "master" could eke out of a the time round my house I had a NEC XG135LC an 8" tube projector I had briefly setup...
iI went round the customers house and William had finished his setup..and it was a great better than my NEC..and it should have was then I knew that I had an affinity with video and had an inhertant skill to get the best picture out of a video device....  
This ideology applies to digital projectors as well..what are the ideal settings for Sony projectors they have certain common traits out of the box that can be improved upon?..Of is in the recognition of how a projector is performing that tells you what needs to change..or not...
This skill is MANDATORY for someone that professes to build Home Cinemas..he/she should know optimal viewing angles..brightness levels..correct degree of sharpness to apply..(or not)..ideal throw...acoustic behaviour and requisite evaluation of the space...and measurements should be taken at certain points...
Again..this all comes with many years of on the job learning..
NOBODY is perfect and we all have our faults..i`m not an ostentatious chap..but in Video calibration I think i`m rather good..I know i`m in the top five in mosts books...I mention this because normally I keep quiet about these skills..(**I had a challenge out in a U.K. forum for 7 years..and that challenge was.."I will improve that picture-and if i give me the projector..if i cant..i`ll give you a projector.."..challenge was never taken up..not once..)...and really I shouldn`t because its a crucial part of a Cinema Install..IF it cannot be proven to a customer they will get a great picture-or a great sound..why would they engage a company...?
Now achieving good sound today isn`t difficult...most speakers over a grand will sound decent...but great sound?..that`s different..accurate sound?..great imaging? relation to Cinema..THX speakers should be the norm..horn speakers should be the norm..there are of course notable exceptions...these exceptions do not include in the main..speakers designed solely for music then regurgitated in a 7 speaker package system as "Cinema speakers"..

I recently dealt with a customer that had bought some digital speakers manufactured by a well known piano they should sound good eh?..well more than a well known Banjo maker could automatically make great speakers nor can a well known piano manufacturer..they were very sharp..clear..reasonably focused..not too bad..kind of how I remembered them when I first heard a few years ago..but god..shrill at higher volumes...average imaging and absolutely NO depth or warnth at fact,absolutely endemic of most digital speakers..and certainly not a patch on Meridian..(In addition,the placement of the speakers was incorrect as was the spacing which didn`t help..)

Indeed,often its the rhetoric of the salesman and "selected" audio snippets that sells a speaker brand as opposed to the real quality..ANY person buying a speaker should demo many brands-and take their OWN cd`s to find what is right for them at their pricepoint..these digital speakers..for what they are-are wayyyy over priced..and failed dismally in the U.S...from an overall sound perspective they are  soundly many- far more cost effective speakers..

I always say to people that its the technology of the speakers that influences the sound..not the brand or the price..a digital speaker is a very sharp-sometimes grating sound-in a cinema..with the exception of Meridian ..a ribbon speaker is a very expansive sound..electrostatics have superb imaging..horns..fantastic  for cinemas ..incredibly efficient from a whisper to an explosion..(*thats why horns are in ALL the top commercial cinemas..)..

 But a truly great picture?..thats an art..and I will put my money where my mouth is..I don`t care WHO has installed your cinema or display..past or present..I will improve that picture..WHOEVER has set it up..and I will improve it in a maximum of 30mins..(*of course..IF i really took my time it would be better still..:-)
I know..KNOW..there are many folks out there unhappy..unhappy with their cinema..their picture..their sound..their acoustic panels..their plethora of remotes or non working home automation-and they shouldn`t be..they should be over joyed in their experience...
Your picture?..I will improve for free...I will tell you EXACTLY what is wrong with that other companies Cinema..and Projectiondreams will correct..cost + 10%...there is no need to suffer mediocrity any longer..:-)
My aim is that people with Cinemas really..REALLY love them and enjoy them..Cinema360 ideology and proficiency over many years will cure for you!
Best Regards,

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