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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Film Handlers' Forum   » Surround speakers -- why still visible? (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: Surround speakers -- why still visible?
Frank Angel
Film God

Posts: 5198
From: Brooklyn NY USA
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 04-21-2006 01:36 AM      Profile for Frank Angel   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Angel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Although this is about aesthetics rather than technical, I will pose it anyway. I have always wondered why, after all these years of a surround channel (first called an effects channel) being part an parcel of cinema sound, why are surround speakers not designed into the actual structure of the room rather than hanging them on the walls like used to be done, and probably still is in grade school and high school auditoria PA systems?

I only saw one theatre design where surrounds were incorporated as part of the auditorium design, and that was at a theatre on the St. Mary's campus in South Bend IN. It had these large intersecting circles in relief on the side walls with the speakers built in behind them. Very impressive looking; there was no hit that speakers were in there. The design units were covered each with different colored fabric which I am assuming was acoustically transparant (like china silk). Simple and seemingly easy to accomplish.

It just seems to me that after all these years, why are we still hanging surround speakers on the side walls as if they were some oversight that was installed after the room was completed? That might have been OK when theatres were first outfitted for CinemaScope and, well, the theatre was already built, so what else can you do....hang 'em up on the walls, boys. But to still be doing it that way at the very least speaks of questionable aesthetics on the part of cinema archetechs and certainly shows about as much creativity as a toilet seat.

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Robert E. Allen
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1078
From: Checotah, Oklahoma
Registered: Jul 2002


 - posted 04-21-2006 01:49 AM      Profile for Robert E. Allen   Email Robert E. Allen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Is St. Mary's a single auditorium Frank? My guess is that the speakers are hung on the outside of the walls because it would take at least double walls in a multiplex to recess the speakers and then soundproofing could be a problem not to mention the square footage that would be eaten up by doing that.

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Frank Angel
Film God

Posts: 5198
From: Brooklyn NY USA
Registered: Dec 1999


 - posted 04-21-2006 02:08 AM      Profile for Frank Angel   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Angel   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yes, Robert, it's a single, large auditorium; I would guess about 800 seats. And you are right, it might take up a bit more space between theatre walls, but that might actually be an opportunity for multiplexes to put in more soundproofing as the speakers, of necessity, will add a bit more space between the adjoining room. On the other hand, speakers today are not all that deep in the first place that you couldn't incorporate them righ into the structure, especially in a new build, just the same way they incorporate everything else that's essential, like ducting and conduit.

Then on the other hand, the surround sound is a function that distinguishes the theatre experience the home TV environment. Until the advent of "home theatre," surround sound was exclusively the cinema's specialty. Maybe people WANT to see speakers on the walls -- it reassures them that they are getting that unique cinema experience. I know if I go into a theatre and I don't see surround speakers, I immediately assume this is a crapola house and I am going to get royally screwed. Maybe from a marketing standpoint, it might be a negative not to have those boxes hanging in full view every three feet, even though half of them are just empty prop boxes.

Stupid public.

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Lyle Romer
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1380
From: Davie, FL, USA
Registered: May 2002


 - posted 04-21-2006 06:18 AM      Profile for Lyle Romer   Email Lyle Romer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
GCC used to sort of build them into the design. I always used to wonder how it affected sound for the people that were under the wall boxes.

Click here to see a picture on cinematour.com

I don't think this would work in a commercial cinema because the walls would break all the time but the coolest design I've ever seen is Dolby's screening room. The walls are basically made out of speaker scrim and the surrounds are in the walls. Also, the A/C is diffused through the walls making it SILENT (and I mean eerily silent) in there. Well, the A/C diffusion method combined with the screening room being "suspended" from the building structure to reduce vibrations.

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Dan Harris
Film Handler

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From: Bristol, UK
Registered: Jun 2003


 - posted 04-21-2006 07:15 AM      Profile for Dan Harris   Email Dan Harris   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Although not embedded in the walls, our standard new design is to blend the surround speakers into the acoustic wall panels and use LED lighting mounted above and below, to create a pretty cool feature. You can kind of see it here, on the left:

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Along the back wall, all the speakers are hidden behind an angled "ledge" which runs whole width.

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Louis Bornwasser
Film God

Posts: 4428
From: prospect ky usa
Registered: Mar 2005


 - posted 04-21-2006 09:52 AM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
You are correct in thinking about this aesthetic problem. I believe inertia is rampant in the planning part of this industry. Also, there are those who like the speakers visible because they can "take credit" for having stereo. The rest of us "expect" great sound.

My personal belief is that anything that detracts from the "magic" is bad. For that reason, visible hardwarte (projectors, speakers, portholes) are a bad idea from the perspective of "suspending reality." Louis

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Sam D. Chavez
Film God

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From: Martinez, CA USA
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 - posted 04-21-2006 10:38 AM      Profile for Sam D. Chavez   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Famous Players in Canada used to have chase lights around the surrounds to draw attention to them. There were even plans to make them writhe to the music. Don't know if this ever happened full scale.

Face it, we are in the carnival industry.

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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From: Lawton, OK, USA
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 - posted 04-21-2006 11:26 AM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't mind a theater incorporating speakers into the walls to hide them -so long as the room's asthetics justify going to that effort. Most theaters have a very plain look along the walls and the speakers enclosures at least break up that look a bit.

The thing I find annoying as hell is the habit of certain exhibitors (AMC) to stuff the surround speakers up in the ceiling. That is unforgivably retarded. I challenge anyone from AMC to give me a single good reason why they should do that. If I were an executive for AMC theaters my first move would be to get those damned surround speakers out of the ceiling and installed along the walls where they belong.

I am pretty sure why AMC does that idiotic nonsense.
1. Some old executive didn't like how the speakers looked on the walls and wanted them hidden.
2. It was cheaper and easier to install them up in the ceiling.

Still, the end result of putting all the surround speakers in the ceiling it this: SHIT QUALITY SURROUND SOUND. AMC and any other exhibitor installing surround speakers in that manner needs to stop doing it already!

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Paul Linfesty
Phenomenal Film Handler

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From: Bakersfield, CA, USA
Registered: Nov 1999


 - posted 04-21-2006 01:11 PM      Profile for Paul Linfesty   Email Paul Linfesty   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In Bakersfield, the Fox Theatre's surround speakers were flush mounted into the side walls of the auditorium way back since 1953. They had the advantage of adding sheer walls in front of the old walls during a remodel a few months before CinemaScope was installed. A number of older theatres used this same speaker technique, with a number of 50's locations in the ceiling (in L.A., these ceiling speakers can still be spotted at the Bruin, NuWilshire, Fine Arts, Vogue, as well as newer theatres such as the National). I've noticed them at other 60's era theatres as well (Bakersfield's Valley Plaza Cinema, Ziegfeld, NYC, SF's Northpoint, GCC Southland, Hayward, as well as others. Of course, all of these theatres have used side speakers for years.
The GCC Avco in Westwood had them origiannaly conceiled in angled flaps that hung from where the ceiling met the wall in addition to some spread through the ceiling. The Chinese originaly had very ornate fixtures that hid the speakers, although these have since been removed. The Village also had them "hidden" behind wooden designs that fit between the pillars/posts on the side walls. These were also removed in the 90's.

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Lyle Romer
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From: Davie, FL, USA
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 - posted 04-21-2006 01:27 PM      Profile for Lyle Romer   Email Lyle Romer   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Bobby,

Agreed 110% on AMC and the ceiling surrounds. What's funny some of thier complexes have a mix of THX auditoriums (surrounds on the wall like they should be) and non-THX with ceiling surround. You'd think that it would sink in that if the surrounds had to be on the wall for THX cert than that's where they should be placed.

It must be for aesthetics. I can't imagine that (especially 10 or 15 years ago) they could have been saving that much on wiring.

At least the newer AMC auditoriums I've been in have wall surrounds.

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Sam D. Chavez
Film God

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From: Martinez, CA USA
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 - posted 04-21-2006 02:04 PM      Profile for Sam D. Chavez   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The ceiling speakers had nothing to do with money, it was just the AMC way. There was an era when they were doing the suck screens, Smart, and ceiling surrounds, all at the same time.

Dolby was teaching modern surround placement ever since the late '70's, but AMC always wanted to go their own way.

There was a time when they were spending serious money on 16mm stereo. "AMC, There is a Difference".

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Jonathan M. Crist
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 523
From: Hershey, PA, USA
Registered: Apr 2000


 - posted 04-21-2006 03:51 PM      Profile for Jonathan M. Crist   Email Jonathan M. Crist   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In the Mid 1990's AMC was also one of the biggest purchasers of SDDS. [Roll Eyes]

You have to wonder who in AMC's purchasing department got the payoffs/kickbacks.

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Gordon McLeod
Film God

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From: Toronto Ontario Canada
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 - posted 04-21-2006 05:01 PM      Profile for Gordon McLeod   Email Gordon McLeod   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In the Phillips handbook "designing the cinema" from 1968 recomended that the effects speakers be placed in the ceiling

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Richard Hamilton
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1341
From: Evansville, Indiana
Registered: Jan 2000


 - posted 04-21-2006 05:32 PM      Profile for Richard Hamilton   Email Richard Hamilton   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Jonathan M. Crist
You have to wonder who in AMC's purchasing department got the payoffs/kickbacks.
hehe, probably the same guy who sold them on the suck screens.

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Brian Guckian
Jedi Master Film Handler

Posts: 594
From: Dublin, Ireland
Registered: Apr 2003


 - posted 04-21-2006 06:57 PM      Profile for Brian Guckian   Email Brian Guckian   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It's a great point, Frank. There should be a total reinvention of cinema aesthetics addressing this. A return to ornamentation and theatricality (carnival!) would be fantastic.

On the ceiling placement of surrounds, the objective must be to replicate the dubbing theatre environment. Ceiling placement would imply a different soundfield not allowed for in re-recording, so presumably is not recommended.

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