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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Film Handlers' Forum   » Identifying Surround EX Prints (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: Identifying Surround EX Prints
Joe Redifer
You need a beating today

Posts: 12855
From: Denver, Colorado
Registered: May 99


 - posted 10-30-1999 03:27 PM      Profile for Joe Redifer   Author's Homepage   Email Joe Redifer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Back before Dolby released their SA-10 EX adaptor, they said that all movies that were mixed in EX would easilly be identified by markings on both the prints and the cans that they come in. This has not been the case. Lately several movies have been in EX (Bats, Fight Club) that were not marked in any way at all. The only way I know if it is in EX is if A) The studio ad in the paper has an EX logo (they usually don't have this until opening day, and the logo in teeny tiny) or B) Our DTS-ES units automatically kick in to EX mode when it sees the timecode. But I have a feeling that DTS is just as misinformed as I am because some of the recent EX movies did not play with DTS's ES unit (Dolby must be trying to weed them out). I think Dolby should send a list of upcoming EX movies in advance to every theatre that has an SA-10.

I suppose I could always look on Dolby's site to find out the latest batch of EX releases, but I really shouldn't have to. Anyone from Dolby like to respond to this question: How can I identify your new sound format?????? Russ? I know you're readin'!

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John Hawkinson
Film God

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From: Cambridge, MA, USA
Registered: Feb 2002


 - posted 04-12-2002 10:36 AM      Profile for John Hawkinson   Author's Homepage   Email John Hawkinson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I thought I'd bump this up in response to the discussion in the Blade 2 topic over in "Feature Info & Trailer Attachments" (no "chit-chat," huh? where's Brad lurking...)

Searching for "EX" over here is a bit of a pain, since you
get "excited" and "exhibitor" too. Two other threads of some
interest (though there's plenty more):

code:

surround EX 02-11-2000
EX? Sorry, not with this title... 06-09-2000

Anyhow, over in the Blade 2 topic, Chase Taylor commented that 5-digit DTS serial numbers represent EX, and Brad said something similar at some other time.

Is it actually 5-digit serial numbers, or is it all serial numbers with the high-bit set (i.e. 32767-65535)? Is this actually encoded in the serial number, or is that just a convention, and is there actually another bit or code on the DTS discs that reports it for sure?

Back on 09-15-2000 06:18 AM in (Sorry...), John Pytlak said

quote:
One positive way of identifying the sound encoding on every print would be to write the information in the analog soundtrack area of the sound negative leaders, so it is printed onto every print made from that negative. The responsibility would fall to the sound recording facility that makes the negative, who should certainly know what type of tracks are on the negative.

What ever happened with that? It seems like such a good idea...

--jhawk

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John Pytlak
Film God

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From: Rochester, NY 14650-1922
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 - posted 04-12-2002 12:41 PM      Profile for John Pytlak   Author's Homepage   Email John Pytlak   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
SMPTE Recommended Practice RP 152 specifies "Edge Identification of Leader and Picture for 35-mm Release Prints". It says: "The identification shall include at least the title of the picture, the type of soundtrack, and the specific reel number. Inclusion of the projection aspect ratio is desirable".

Standard SMPTE 301 "Theater Projection Leader, Trailer and Cue Marks" also specifies the locations in the leader for information about Length, Titles, Track, Lab, Company, Prod. No., Special Data, Aspect Ratio, Sound Type, and Frame Rate.

As you may know, SMPTE Standards and Recommended Practices are voluntary. Affected users are the ones who need to "enforce" them -- this means YOU! Write the distributor, asking that this complete information always be included, and why it will help have "Film Done Right" in your theatre.

------------------
John P. Pytlak, Senior Technical Specialist
Worldwide Technical Services, Entertainment Imaging
Research Labs, Building 69, Room 7525A
Rochester, New York, 14650-1922 USA
Tel: +1 585 477 5325 Cell: +1 585 781 4036 Fax: +1 585 722 7243
E-Mail: john.pytlak@kodak.com
Web site: http://www.kodak.com/go/motion

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John Hawkinson
Film God

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From: Cambridge, MA, USA
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 - posted 04-12-2002 03:11 PM      Profile for John Hawkinson   Author's Homepage   Email John Hawkinson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Thanks, John;

In your September 2000 post, you gave the impression that you were going to bring this up at SMPTE and Inter-Society meetings, in order to effect some change. It looks to me that the latest versions of the standards you cited are less recent than your post, viz. SMPTE RP152-1994 ($15) and SMPTE 301M-1999 ($24). So I'm left wondering if the conclusion of bringing it up at those meetings was, "this is already in the standards, all we can do is ask exhibitors to put pressure on distributors and labs to implement them." Or was there something else in mind?

I'm all for drafting letters, but some effort should probably go into if we'd seriously like to effect change. Probably someone who has a copy of the aforementioned standards should draft such a thing, and include clear examples of what is and is not reasaonble.

It also seems that this sort of thing is most effective when other people jump on the bandwagon. A single letter is much less persuasive than 100 letters, or perhaps a single letter signed by a large number of people.

Are folks interested in this, and would participants be willing to lend their names and affiliation to such a communication?

If so, would anyone with a copy of the aforementioned standards care to draft such a communication? If there's interest, it certainly won't break the bank for me to go buy the standards and draft something, though money is relatively tight around here.


A technical question -- what does "edge identification" refer to? Does that mean text in the soundtrack area, or does it actually refer to text outside the sprockets where edgecodes/keycodes are?

--jhawk

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Dave Macaulay
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1932
From: Toronto, Canada
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 04-12-2002 04:27 PM      Profile for Dave Macaulay   Email Dave Macaulay   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The writing is in the soundtrack area, before the actual soundtrack is present in the leader. I've never seen writing in the SDDS area.
I've found most EX prints are labelled "QUAD" either on the track or in one of the leader frames. This doesn't seem to be universal but if it says quad you can be pretty certain it's EX.

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John Hawkinson
Film God

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From: Cambridge, MA, USA
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 - posted 04-12-2002 04:29 PM      Profile for John Hawkinson   Author's Homepage   Email John Hawkinson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Dave, can you substantiate that?

I thought that QUAD merely meant "SR+SRD+DTS+SDDS"?

--jhawk

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David Stambaugh
Film God

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From: Eugene, Oregon
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 - posted 04-12-2002 06:11 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Possibly stupid question: What happens if you run a non-EX print with EX decoding enabled? A "hole" in the surround field at the rear? How noticeable is it?

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Dave Macaulay
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1932
From: Toronto, Canada
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 04-12-2002 06:19 PM      Profile for Dave Macaulay   Email Dave Macaulay   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I can't "substantiate" it, I don't have a collection of leaders or any inside knowledge.
My reading is that "quad" refers to the 4 channel surround system required for EX. I've seen leaders with "scratch" labels reading SR/DTS/SRD/SDDS QUAD ... if quad just means all four then it seems totally redundant to add it after listing them.

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Don Sneed
Master Film Handler

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From: Texas City, TX, USA
Registered: Aug 2001


 - posted 04-12-2002 06:35 PM      Profile for Don Sneed   Author's Homepage   Email Don Sneed   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
David you may already know this...if you run a non EX print in Ex format you lose the side surround & only have rear surround only...yes it is very noticeable...if you run an EX print in reg. format (format 10) then all surround will work as no EX...I have seen many theatres run a EX print without using the EX mode....so why have an SA-10 if you are not going to use it?? I have vyet figure that one out yet !!

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Karen Hultgren
Master Film Handler

Posts: 492
From: Agoura Hills, CA, USA
Registered: Mar 2000


 - posted 04-12-2002 07:17 PM      Profile for Karen Hultgren   Author's Homepage   Email Karen Hultgren   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Joe,

The DTS-ES unit can be programmed to kick in when it sees DD pulse as well. If you need info on that, send me an email.

Also, 6.1 DTS discs are available for films mixed for 6.1. The way to tell if the disc you have is encoded that way is to look at the serial number on the disc (for the film title). If the serial number has 5 digitsl its a 6.1 mix.

Karen at DTS
khultgren@dtsonline.com

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
Registered: Apr 2001


 - posted 04-12-2002 10:23 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Don't rely on newspaper stack ads for telling whether a film has been mixed for the Surround EX format. I have seen a lot of New York Times and L.A. Times stack ads use the DD-EX logo on films that were definitely not mixed for EX. The theaters using the EX logo in the ad work must be turing the EX processor on for all shows (which of course is totally inappropriate).

The only piece of advertising that seems dependable at all for identifying a Surround EX film is the movie poster one sheet itself. For instance, the "Star Wars: Episode II" poster has the DD-EX logo on it. The movie poster area of a stack ad may feature the DD-EX logo as well. The one sheets for films like "The World Is Not Enough" did not have the DD-EX logo, but the poster art in the newspaper ads did. I've only seen that with actual DD-EX films.

Unfortunately, there is a larger number of films mixed for DD-EX that are never identified as being mixed for Surround EX. Joe brought up "Fight Club" as an example. I don't remember ever seeing the DD-EX logo on any "Gladiator" or "Mission Impossible 2" art. There's a lot of other films that fall into that category as well, with "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" being one of the most recent examples.

To make matters even worse (well, at least for anyone keeping up with the films once they get into home release) is Dolby Labs does not allow the Dolby Digital Surround EX logo to be used on DVD packaging. They have also put a stop to allowing the logo to be emblazoned on home theater hardware as well. You may see "THX Surround EX" and "DTS-ES" logos all over the place, but the Dolby Digital Surround EX logo is strictly for commercial theater use only. That might be fine and all from a certain standpoint; however, most here would agree the identification of DD-EX theatrical releases has been very very poor overall.

One other item, there are many many Quad Format SR/SRD/DTS/SDDS print releases every year. Very few of those feature Surround EX optimized mixes. Nearly every Surround EX release has been on a Quad Format print (with "The Art of War" being possibly the only exception; it was a SR/SRD only release).

My own personal opinion is that Surround EX is largely a dud in how it has been marketed. There are very few theaters in my area equipped for Dolby Digital Surround EX or even DTS-ES for that matter. And I would bet that there is a small minority of theaters that actually uses the extended surround equipment properly (that being using it only for Surround EX mixed releases).

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Brad Miller
Administrator

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From: Plano, TX (36.2 miles NW of Rockwall)
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 - posted 04-13-2002 04:03 PM      Profile for Brad Miller   Author's Homepage   Email Brad Miller       Edit/Delete Post 
Actually Don, I'm going to jump in here and clarify your comment.

So what happens if you play a non-EX encoded film in EX? That depends entirely on the film.

Scenario #1 - You are playing a film in analog, or the film was mixed with mono surrounds. ALL of the sound in the surround channels will be directed to the rear and the sides will be dead.

Scenario #2 - You are playing a non-EX film in digital, that does have split surrounds. This is where it gets tricky. Now assuming the sound mixers did not really utilize the "stereo" part of the surrounds much, most all of your sound will be directed into the rear channel and the sides will be dead. (A good example of this is "A Knight's Tale".)

However...

Scenario #3 - You are playing a non-EX film in digital, that does have split surrounds and the "stereo" surrounds were used routinely (as is *most* of today's film mixes). You will actually have a very pleasant EX effect. Now as to whether this was intended or not is a completely different story. However I throw the movie "Vertical Limit" out as a movie that I accidentally forgot to turn off the EX decoder when I screened it and WOW! Very impressive!!! In fact, I would go so far as to say this film sounded far better than any film actually mixed for EX.

So really, it all depends.


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David Stambaugh
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 - posted 04-13-2002 04:16 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Interesting. I suppose if you routinely have the luxury of doing a preview of your new prints, you could just always try it with EX decoding on and see what results. If it sounds right/good, leave it on. ? Seems like not a very well-designed system if it requires that much "fussing" to get optimal performance out of it. Or at least not very operator-friendly.



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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 04-13-2002 07:51 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Surround EX is just a Dolby Pro-Logic style approach applied to the surround channels. In stereo material for the home whenever volume levels for a sound event are identical in volume level between Left and Right channels that sound element gets directed to the center. Most films mixed for Dolby Stereo and Dolby Surround use this method to anchor dialog in the center channel.

The same method is used in the surrounds. If volume levels reach the same level of intensity in Right Surround and Left Surround channels for a particular sound element, that element will be pulled back to the Center Surround channel and the sides will go dead as Brad described.

Some films should never be played with Surround EX. That includes all analog Dolby Stereo and SR shows. You have only mono surround with those formats. Side walls will be dead and only the back wall will work. The effect is very distracting. The same thing will happen for people in DVD land when playing discs with 4.1 channel track like "The Abyss". My father did this with his new Denon 4802 receiver and thought something was wrong until I explained why the surrounds were locked to his back wall.

My opinion is no movie should ever be played in Surround EX mode unless it was mixed specifically for the format. If not, it should play in straight 5.1 instead. Now, "Vertical Limit" might be an interesting exception. But at least Brad previewed the film and made sure it sounded good (and as it turned out, very good) before selling any tickets for the show with the system set for EX. I have a strong feeling many theaters equipped for Surround EX or DTS-ES are just leaving the systems turned on for all shows whether they were mixed for Surround EX or not.

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David Stambaugh
Film God

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From: Eugene, Oregon
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 - posted 04-13-2002 08:28 PM      Profile for David Stambaugh   Author's Homepage   Email David Stambaugh   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Well, speaking of the Dolby implementation now, it appears that prints are not clearly indentified whether or not they are EX-encoded, and the hardware is not able to auto-detect EX material and switch the decoder in/out as necessary. You'd think that exhibitors who invested their $$ in the hardware would raise a stink about lack of info on which films carry EX. I mean, this thread began in 1999 and projectionists are still discussing the same problem 2 1/2 years later!


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