Do commercial movie theaters use compressors on soundtracks?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Kenneth Harden, Jul 19, 2005.

  1. Kenneth Harden

    Kenneth Harden Screenwriter

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    As in, do they cut down on the dynamics to protect speakers, ears, and enable them to get a more 'even' sound?

    I cannot help but think that movie theaters tone things down (just a bit) compared to a good home system. As in, things are a *bit* soft and a *bit* more mellow.

    I have a Klipsch/Harman Kardon rig, and on some movies, it nearly rips the room apart, where as the SAME movie in the theater was loud, but seemed to lack some of the edge.

    This is not a bad thing, but do you know if this is the case?

    I certainly expect movie theaters use a gate or the like as to protect their speakers, especially the subs.
     
  2. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Not usually, although it's more accurate to say not specifically. however, many of the theaters 've seen use speaker controllers/processors that have internal limiting.

    I think what you are experiencing comes from complaints: I have heard many times from many theater managers that the volume level being too high is their most common complaint (more than once a night easily).

    -V
     
  3. Joe L.

    Joe L. Stunt Coordinator

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    I was told in one of the seminars I attended that in many cases, the DVD soundtrack has been modified from the one used in theaters to increase the dynamic range and enhance it for the home environment.

    The person giving the talk at the seminar was the sound engineer who did the sound on the DVD release on LOTR, so I think he had a clue or two about what he did.

    I can also imagine that most multiplex theaters do not use subwoofers that can go as low as many home subs. They really do not want the sound from one movie interfering with the viewing of a movie in an adjacent theater.

    Joe L.
     
  4. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    I can only speak for my HT: I have a Denon 4802 (flagshipish receiver), paradigm monitor 7 and SVS20-39PC, run of the mill HT by HTF standards. I love my setup, it's enough for my needs, but most decent theaters are definitely superior in terms of sound quality.

    I had a good occasion to compare during the FOTR:EE theatrical release, which had been out on DVD for more than a year, and which I was very familiar with. I saw it in a theater which I consider decent to good, but not great. My main issue with this particular venue is the relatively unimpressive bass, compared to my favorite theater(s). My SVS definitely goes lower, and surround activity might be more pronounced in my HT (not necessarely a good thing) but that's it. In terms of sound clarity, detail, crispness, the theater was definitely better. The overused phrase "I heard things I never heard before" applies. The soundstage was much more balanced and uniform, as if it were a wall of sound. The acoustics of a large room add a very pleasant spatiality and scope as well. These are things I don't get in my living room.

    My favorite theaters have earth shattering bass that make ME vibrate. SVS can't do that in my room.

    About overall volume, I have to significantly raise my voice during loud scenes in the theater to talk to the person next to me. I don't do that at home at my usual listening levels.

    But then again, it could be that my HT sucks [​IMG].

    I don't know what HK sounds like but Klipsch speakers are notoriously (excessively?) bright and dynamic, I used to own them. Despite the fact that theaters use horns as well, having them at home up close can definitely make theaters sound dull.

    --
    H
     
  5. Hank Frankenberg

    Hank Frankenberg Cinematographer

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    On the contrary, most theaters I've gone to have cranked the SPL's too much and SHOULD have limiters applied. Most are so harsh sounding that it's very annoying and does hurt some people's ears. I believe it's to cater to the teen and early 20's customers - the same one's who overdo car audio SPL's. Hearing damage awaits in their future.
     
  6. Jesse Skeen

    Jesse Skeen Producer

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    There's a device called the "Afterburner" that's been out for a while that compresses the dynamic range. I worked at a 16-screen theater that had these and it was a real piece of junk- it brought in background hiss and random clicking in the surround speakers. I disconnected them all and those problems went away.
     

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