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This topic comprises 2 pages: 1  2 
 
Author Topic: Digital Poll
Rick Long
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 759
From: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Registered: Nov 1999


 - posted 09-11-1999 11:23 PM      Profile for Rick Long   Email Rick Long   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I am interested in your opinions as to which of the three popular digital systems (D.T.S., S.R.D., and S.D.D.S.) is the best in terms of:
(1) Audio quality (probably best determined by those in the "front line" such as projectionists, ushers and managers.
(2) Reliability - temporary or permanent failure rate (probably determined best by projectionists and technicians).
This question is asked as a result of several conversations during the current Toronto International Film Festival. Thank you.

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Brad Miller
Administrator

Posts: 17590
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99


 - posted 09-12-1999 02:27 AM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
This one isn't too hard. I think most others will agree too.

#1 First and foremost is DTS. This system is idiotproof for anyone who can operate a cd player. (Apparently some operators can't.) I've seen prints completely trashed in every possible manner, yet the DTS sound just keeps right on playing without a glitch. DTS also has the lowest compression with it's audio being on separate cd-rom discs. In addition, the leds on all but the first year's readers seem to have an incredible lifespan, as I've never seen one darken or fail. Has anyone ever received a printing defect on a DTS track? Not that I've heard of. Finally, the readers use a standard (and inexpensive) cable and the systems are effortless to move around from auditorium to auditorium. This system just can not be beat. The only problem is not every film is released in this format, so to present every film in digital all the time would require at least one floating SRD unit in the booth.

#2 SRD would definitely be the second choice for digital sound. The quality is extremely close to what DTS can provide (and can only be distinguished with a direct A/B comparison) and the format is on every film released (with the exception of some smaller MGM and Sony films). The system is very reliable (especially with a cat 701 reader) and as long as the sprocket areas of the tracks don't get damaged, will track fine.

#3 (Actually it shouldn't even be listed) is SDDS. This format is the worst sounding and is completely unreliable. I have had nothing but problem after problem after problem with these infernal machines. They will work perfectly for a few weeks and then spazz out on a Saturday night sold out show. The audio frequently drops out and a fallback to the "backup" SDDS track is far worse than falling back to the SR track. The digital tracks are on the edge of the film, conveniently where the film will receive the most wear and teat. What else needs to be said here?

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Aaron Mehocic
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 804
From: New Castle, PA, USA
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 09-12-1999 01:38 PM      Profile for Aaron Mehocic   Email Aaron Mehocic   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Brad is pretty much on the money here. DTS is idiot-proof and sound quality isn't that bad so long as the processor is working right. I like SRD personally, because I think these units are better constructed and are a bit more reliable. As far as SDDS, I'll quit before I lower myself to work with thoses pieces of s--t.

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Erika Hellgren
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 168
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 09-12-1999 04:42 PM      Profile for Erika Hellgren   Email Erika Hellgren   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
DTS can't be beat in my opinion. Brad covered all the technical advantages to DTS, but I wanted to touch on the sound quality. I used to think that SR-D sounded the best, but my opinion was changed when I watched The Matrix in a house where we had finally gotten rid of all sound gliches and set the DTS levels correctly (this makes a world of difference!). I am now a faithful DTS worshiper. I think the reason a lot of people like SR-D's sound quality the best (and it is exceptional, don't get me wrong), is because they haven't heard it in a well EQed theatre with the levels set correctly. And to me, the good sound with SR-D doesn't make up for its unreliability. It doesn't sound too good if you can't play it

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George Roher
Master Film Handler

Posts: 266
From: Washington DC
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 09-12-1999 06:03 PM      Profile for George Roher   Email George Roher   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
DTS is best, in my opinion. I've never had a single problem of any kind with DTS and I've had plenty of trouble with the other formats.

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timothy johnson
Film Handler

Posts: 50
From: minneapolis, mN 55419
Registered: Jul 99


 - posted 09-12-1999 08:51 PM      Profile for timothy johnson   Email timothy johnson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
DTS blows my mind, I ran a 10 foot loop from a trailer to do some lens work, then I thought just for the fun of it, I will put in the DTS trailer disc to see what would happen, without a blink of an eye the dts player looped with the film flawlessly, not even a sound pop where the splice was.

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Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

Posts: 12856
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: May 99


 - posted 09-12-1999 09:29 PM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
DTS is by far the very best. For many many reasons! First of all, I do not need a direct A/B comparison to tell the difference between that and SRD. It just sounds smoother. SRD sounds fabulous as well, despite the incredibly high 12:1 compression ratio (more than twice that of SDDS). Actually, old SRD films can sound like slurry MP3's, especially the first train trailer. But that was an encoding problem and was fixed very quickly. SRD is also subject to printing errors. I ran a film at the Telluride Film Festival that simply would not track the data, even with Cat 701 readers. Nobody's Cat 701 readers could do it. The first reel was 8-F-8-F and every reel after that was gibberish. We had to run it in SR (it wouldn't even stay in digital). But when it works, Dolby Digital sounds great on a well mixed film.

I don't care too much for SDDS anymore. Brad pretty much said it all.

The key to DTS is expandability. Just add a second unit and you are ready for 12 discrete channels of sound when the time comes and the industry demands that much! And no change will need to be made in printing the film. Just more CDs. Oh yeah, the DTS-ES unit is by far the very best "EX" style of center surround. The James Bond trailers go thru and automatically play in EX! Dolby can't do that! All hail DTS!

Perhaps DTS should mention this forum in their next magazine ad -- "The choice of projectionists and engineers around the world!"

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Mark Gulbrandsen
Resident Trollmaster

Posts: 15887
From: Bountiful, Utah
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 09-12-1999 11:38 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There is one thing that has been overlooked by everyone in favor of DTS. It is a great system....but its a double system. It is not completely idiot proof either......there are too many idiots in the film exchanges that forget to include the disks with the prints. And there are too many idiots running booths that forget to put the disks back in the can before it leaves. Gee.....the drive in got the print with the disks and the indoor didn't get their disks(sound familiar?). This still happens VERY frequently even in large citys such as Chicago and Salt Lake City(let alone rural areas). I have seen a few unreadable time code tracks in past years, but DTS has done a great job at cleaning up that problem. On the other hand I've had to do countless CDR drive upgrades as a result of the Toshiba drives failing.I've had to change out software eproms,readers, and go out and reset sub bass levels..........geez! As far as a practical system goes SRD wins hands down. Single system, and VERY reliable. Sure, a poorly printed film now and then, but not much else on a scale to compare to DTS's woes. Really now, you can only hear the difference between the three systems on extrodinarily good B chains and those comprise about .05% of the theaters in the world(primarily re-recording stages). So in my experience SRD wins hands down as the most practical system out there.
SDDS doesn't even factor in anywhere as far as I'm concerned.

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Brad Miller
Administrator

Posts: 17590
From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
Registered: May 99


 - posted 09-13-1999 01:14 AM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
True, but there is this wonderful woman at DTS known as "Karen" who will take care of every possible need, including overnighting DTS discs. The problem is in the depots, not the system. If we could just get damn Technicolor to ship us those prints (as I've said a million times) on Wednesday, there would be plenty of time to fix the mistake.

Recently I've been going around to theaters who are test driving FilmGuard and I've been shocked to see how much wax and crud is caked on the gate bands and trap when prints are ran dry. A pass or two through this hardened gunk and the SRD track is scratched beyond use. One theater I went to had all but the newest couple of prints in SR because of this abrasion problem...and yes they were taking good care in cleaning the heads after each show. This is why I must continue to recommend the DTS system.

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

Posts: 9390
From: Toronto Ontario Canada
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 09-13-1999 11:34 AM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
DTS wins hands down for several reasons.
1 It is reliable it takes a lot to destroy the time code 100 passes on most Vic5 or 10 and the SRD is history. Most second run theatres find the SRD track usually unreadable
2The lowest amount of data compression
3Truely discrete channels (except the sub bass) there is no bit pooling as in SRD. SRD channel seperation drops much like that of a matrix in complex passages to conserve the bandwith
4Cheap to repair when a drive fails
5 Expandable to extra channels or control functions like effects
6 Allows multilanguage from the same print
7 It is available with 70mm

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Mark Gulbrandsen
Resident Trollmaster

Posts: 15887
From: Bountiful, Utah
Registered: Jun 99


 - posted 09-13-1999 03:05 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Fortunately there are not too many Vic 10's or even Vic 5's around the states. I've heard that even GC has stopped using them. Having serviced alot of 2nd run theaters in the recent past I can honestly say that overall the SRD does indeed hold up extremely well. As I said the "problem with DTS is that it is double system...not single system. I as much as any of you appreciate the good qualities of the DTS system very much. Especially the 70mm feature. Unfortunately the drive repair can be quite expensive to do on an older unit as you have to get the kit from DTS. On a 2 drive this costs the theater around 500.00 and for a three drive around 750.00. Not a cheap repair by any standards. Of course on newer units drives can be procured locally.

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John Wilson
Film God

Posts: 5431
From: Sydney, Australia.
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 09-13-1999 05:50 PM      Profile for John Wilson   Email John Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yes, I think dts wins the gold medal on this as well.

The only print I ever had a problem with was Miracle on 34th Street. It had a spool 3 or 4 that had its time code about 7 seconds out of sync (which was a real bummer 'cos this reel started with an Elvis song). Had to go back manually (and not forget to be there) to SR for this spool and drop out the discs so they wouldn't kick in again then come back to pop them in again at the next spool.

We also had some problems feeding the film into the dts head. It got so bad I went to another theater to see what they were doing and found an extra roller above the reader. When I said where did you find that they informed me that dts had sent them out as an addition about 8 months ago to 'all'theeir theaters. Well, obviously not ALL their theaters.

But that's the only complaints I have about the system. It is Very easy to move from one screen to another, just don't forget to adjust the offset or you'll look like a goose.

SRD gets second place because it's on almost every print but I need to get more than 100 passes out of my prints and the error rate is getting mighty high by that time.

dts, on the other hand...

------------------
John

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Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

Posts: 12856
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: May 99


 - posted 09-13-1999 09:12 PM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Do not forget to set not only the head offset (delay) but to reset the levels when moving the DTS unit! Very important.

I have never really had a big problem with DTS being a double system. If the projectionist is too stupid to load the discs, he should have never even been born. That is pathetic. I really don't care about second run theatres, but we ALWAYS include the DTS discs in the can when we are done with a film. As far as I am concerned, they are studio property, just like the print itself. DTS discs are easilly copied via a CDR, however. So make tons of copies if you want to keep them for yourself or if only one theatre in town has a set of discs.

The surround quality in DTS is much better than Dolby Digital. Turn up a movie playing in SRD. The surrounds hiss (not the amp). Turn up the same movie in DTS. No hissing (except for any amp or processor hiss). Less compression has its advantages! Sure, the double system is not convenient. But I will take sound quality over convenience anyday! The customers don't care if it is convenient for the projectionist to have the sound on the film so he won't lose it. They just want the best sound quality available and they don't want it dropping out.

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Stephen Jones 1
Film Handler

Posts: 62
From: Tulsa, OK, USA
Registered: Aug 1999


 - posted 09-14-1999 01:56 AM      Profile for Stephen Jones 1   Author's Homepage   Email Stephen Jones 1   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I am wondering how and what everyone does when they move a DTS player and/or reader between different auditoriums. Can someone give me some info on what exactly should be done so that the sound can be experienced with no flaws? And, what equipment is necessary? thanks

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Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

Posts: 12856
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: May 99


 - posted 09-14-1999 03:31 AM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Equipment needed - Phillips screwdrivers #1 and #2. Small flathead screwdriver (for undoing the reader cable) and a SPL meter, available for about $30 or so at Radio Shack. Be sure to get the analog meter, not the digital one. Set the meter to C weighting and slow response.

Move your unit with the tools listed above. If the new projector has the same exact distance from the DTS reader to the aperture as the other projector it came from, then there isn't any need to change the delay. Otherwise you will need to set it. I don't have the manual handy (available for download from the site), but it explains the simple math that you can do to determine the proper delay.

After everything is hooked up and ready to go, slip in the DTS Empirical Test Disc. The disc should have track listings. Set the delay switches to the track that you want to play. Say track 3 (left channel). Pink noise will play and you adjust the appropriate pot until the level is good. Be sure to take the meter reading from about 2/3 of the way back in the auditorium, not through the porthole. Also, this is VERY IMPORTANT, turn off the amps for the subwoofer when setting the levels for the left and right surrounds, or they will interfere and you will not get a proper level as the subs will be making noise. I always turn the surround amps off when adjusting the subs as well. This is because the subwoofer is not a discrete channel and is literally MATRIXED off of the surround channels (below 80hz).

Here is how I set the levels. Others may set them a little differently but I find I get far fewer complaints about volume level, even when playing the film at '7'.

Left 85db
Center 84db (some people will set this at 83db)
Right 85db
Left surround 83db
Right surround 83db
Subwoofer 92db (higher if you have the amplifier power, or it will clip)

Hope this helps. Also, don't forget to set the delay back to the proper setting when you are done and replace the cover plate!

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