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Author Topic: Idea: Headphone screenings
Thomas Pitt
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 - posted 11-16-2018 02:35 PM      Profile for Thomas Pitt   Email Thomas Pitt   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I posted a while ago about the volume level in theatres being way too loud for my liking. Well here’s an interesting idea - what about screenings where all the speakers are MUTED? Instead, there would either be headphone jacks on each seat or some kind of wireless system for provided headsets. The advantage here is that patrons could set their desired volume level using controls on the headphones themselves, and you’d be less likely to hear other noises in the auditorium - such as people’s phones going off or children screaming.

I believe there is a system called Dolby Headphone that gives the illusion of 5.1 audio through a standard pair of stereo headphones. This could be employed in the theater headphone system so you still get the effect. You might even be able to piggyback onto the existing Audio Description system, using headsets with a switch to choose either the standard movie audio or the Audio Described audio.

Of course, you wouldn’t get the low-frequency sounds through small headphones, so perhaps the subwoofer could still be on for the room-shaking effect?

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Harold Hallikainen
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From: Denver, CO, USA
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 - posted 11-16-2018 03:08 PM      Profile for Harold Hallikainen   Author's Homepage   Email Harold Hallikainen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We could carry this further by not having a screen, or for that matter, not having a theater:

http://lrmonline.com/news/paramount-to-debut-a-virtual-reality-movie-theater/

Hearing impaired headphones (assistive listening systems) are currently available (but they are generally monaural), so perhaps that could deal with the "too loud" issue.

Harold

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Bobby Henderson
"Ask me about Trajan."

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 - posted 11-16-2018 03:31 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I think there are practical issues that would make headphones in the theater a no-go. If the headphones were decent quality at all chances are good some customers would try stealing them. It's all but guaranteed headphones would be routinely damaged. Then there's all sorts of sanitary issues. Head lice anyone? You can't stick a pair of headphones in a sanitizing dish-washer like you can some plastic IMAX glasses.

Speaking of IMAX, they sort of tried going this route back when IMAX 3D was a brand new thing 20 years ago. The original IMAX 3D glasses had active shutter LCD lenses and also had "Personal Sound Environment" speakers in the headset for near-field sound effects. I wonder if any IMAX theaters anywhere still use those things.

I'm not sold on the standard Dolby Headphone tech that presumably can be piped through any normal set of headphones. Dolby is now selling a new $599 set of noise cancelling headphones called Dolby Dimension. There's no standard headphone jack; they connect only via Bluetooth. Dolby is kind of vague in their ad materials regarding how these headphones simulate surround sound.

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 11-24-2018 06:25 AM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Like Bobby already mentioned, those "surround headsets" are no comparison to the real thing. Actually, I've recently tried a pair of "Dolby Atmos" gaming headsets in a store, while trying to find a pair of OK noise cancelling headsets as a present for a good friend and I found the experience to be sub-par.

Like you already mentioned yourself, the impact of a subwoofer is entirely missing.

Running just the subwoofers is a really awkward idea if you ask me, because the levels of the subwoofer will not match with the volume you selected on your headset.

Then, there is hygiene. Just look at airlines that still hand out headsets for their in-flight entertainment. They collect them afterwards, clean them and rebag them in plastic bags. You really need to clean a headset after each use and they're not dishwasher safe like Dolby 3D glasses.

And another issue: Costs. Good headsets, especially those who support those "virtual surround" goodies, cost quite a lot of money. They will be more expensive than washable 3D glasses. And you need to install extra infrastructure in the room, like headphone wiring, amplifiers and if you use a wireless system, you need a method of charging those headsets and wireless transmitters...

Also... Yet another active component that can break. Not only the speakers themselves, but also the headphone jack or the wireless transmission system...

And... What about vandalism?

But, I've got a final issue with headphones: They're just another unnecessary distraction. I don't want to wear all kinds of accessories just to go see a movie, unless it really adds something really really worthwhile and not just a gimmick.

I see one upside though: Integrate some good noise cancellation, and you will be less distracted by those rude f*cks in the room that can't keep their mouths shut. [Wink]

So, my personal outlook for "cinema with headphones": bleak.

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Frank Cox
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 - posted 11-24-2018 10:59 AM      Profile for Frank Cox   Author's Homepage   Email Frank Cox   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
You would also lose a lot of the social quality of going to the movies.

A movie is always funnier when the whole room is laughing along with you and you wouldn't notice that if you're cocooned in your noise cancelling headphones.

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Leo Enticknap
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 - posted 11-24-2018 12:34 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Sorry to sound like a middle aged old fart, but the fact that we're discussing this at all is symptomatic of the iBullShit, narcissistic tendency. For the last 15 years or so, consumer media technology has promoted and focused on the idea of personal devices: you totally control what media you consume, create (e.g. selfies), etc. etc. We can set the volume to what we like in our living room, so why can't we do that in the theater?

For as long as I have had anything to do with movie theaters professionally (since 1989), complaints about the volume level have been the #1 reason why customers come out of a house and speak to a staff member. Our response has always been the same: we set the volume to a level that keeps most people happy, most of the time. In a communal viewing situation, you can never keep everyone happy, all of the time. When this is explained politely and empathetically, most customers will accept it and go back in.

We go to the movie theater (at least, I do) primarily because I want to see the picture in a darkened room, on a large screen, with no other distractions (and secondarily in order to see it before one is able to see it any other way).

Already, this experience is being eroded. "Movie grill" type places - combined theater/restaurants - have introduced reclining armchairs, table lamps (in other words, making the place more like a home than a theater), wait staff walking around in front of you and all sort of other distractions for customers who simply haven't got the patience to have a meal first and see the movie afterwards. The idea of headphone screenings is another step in that direction. There are now enough of these customers to make this sort of theater a growth sector. Samsung are actively promoting their big screen LED displays as looking as good with the house lights fully up as they are with them down.

Coincidentally (or maybe not), I read an article the other day noting that audiences at live sports events have been declining steadily over the last few years, too. The author blamed high ticket prices, which I'm sure is part of the reason, but I have to wonder if the same tendency is at work here: that customers are simply not willing to give up personal comforts or put up with something mildly annoying (not much legroom, or the smell of food they don't like) for the atmosphere of seeing something live, in the company of thousands of others.

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Bobby Henderson
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 - posted 11-24-2018 03:19 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
In the case of declining attendance at sporting events I think the blatant price gouging is a big part of the problem. Customers are getting soaked for more than just the ticket prices. Stadium parking at many pro sports events is outrageously priced. Food and drinks are expensive. The leagues and stadiums are always on the look out for new ways how to ding your wallet. The outing is priced at a luxury experience, but when you examine each feature point by point there's really no luxury there. It sure isn't fun to wait in a long line behind 200 other sports fans just waiting to take a piss in an ordinary public restroom.

Contrast that with experience of watching the big game at home. Today it's common for people to have huge HDTV sets in their living rooms. Watching sporting events at sports-themed bars and restaurants is popular. You still get a group atmosphere, but it costs far less than seeing the game in person at the stadium. And you get a better view of the action watching on TV than you do watching at the stadium.

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Mark Gulbrandsen
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 - posted 11-24-2018 03:39 PM      Profile for Mark Gulbrandsen   Email Mark Gulbrandsen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
That's why people build home theaters!

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 11-24-2018 07:30 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Bobby Henderson
Contrast that with experience of watching the big game at home. Today it's common for people to have huge HDTV sets in their living rooms. Watching sporting events at sports-themed bars and restaurants is popular. You still get a group atmosphere, but it costs far less than seeing the game in person at the stadium. And you get a better view of the action watching on TV than you do watching at the stadium.
I guess it's still the sense of being there and the social part that's important. Because, if you break everything down point by point, then it's going to look pretty bad.

For example, if you watch a game at home, the players will always be in focus and the image will be focused on the actor. Whereas sitting in a stadium, more often than not, you're looking at a bunch of matchsticks running around on a field.

The same is true for many live concerts. Often, you're so far away from the podium, whatever you see is just a bunch of tiny figurines.

Yeah, you can still always look at the video wall. [Wink]

So, in the end, I had to get there, using either overcrowded public transportation or I probably had to fight myself through massive amounts of slow moving traffic just to get to my overpriced parking spot, right at the other end of the planet.

Then I stood in an overcrowded line, just to get in. I slowly made my way through the crowds to my uncomfortable, plastic seat. Whenever I decided to get up to take a piss, I had to stand in line for 15 minutes in front of a nasty public bathroom. And after the fact, I stood in total gridlock for 1.5 hours, just trying to get off the parking lot... or if I decided to take the public transportation, I would've been squeezed like a sardine into the next available, totally overcrowded train, tram or bus.

For all of this, I just paid triple premium, for the tickets, the parking, the bad food and stale beer, but I still somehow loved it, because I was part of something... special. I was there with my friends and the whole social interaction somehow was still worth it.

Whereas if I would've watched the same thing at home, I probably would've better picture and sound, better food, better beer, no traffic jams, no nasty toilets and everything almost for free... I could still have invited some friends, but it would not have been as "big" as the "real" thing.

But as ticket prices soar into the sky and the frustrations around the "real" experience largely remain, you'll see that those frustrations start to outweigh in the decision making. In some form, it's the same for cinema. That's why there is only ever so much market for "fancy pants" cinema concepts and why it's really important prices remain affordable for the average moviegoer.

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Leo Enticknap
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 - posted 11-24-2018 09:36 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Mark Gulbrandsen
That's why people build home theaters!
Related to the "i-ism" trend, this has been on the uptick, too. A co-worker recently commented that while home theaters in the houses of the Hollywood elite have been around since the 1920s (hence the Bel-Air Circuit), in the last 5-10 years or so, there has been steady growth in their installation in the homes of millionaires who have no professional connection to the film industry, but want them primarily as a status symbol.

I serviced one recently that had only been used to watch Direct TV a few times since it was built four years ago. Then, a movie industry friend of the owner invited him to hold a "private premiere," so to speak, at which point they booted up the DCP server for the first time since it was originally installed, and discovered that the battery in the media block had died, and bricked it.

There seems to be something paradoxical about building a facility that is designed to be used for a communal experience, and then sitting in it alone (or with just one or two others). But paradoxical or not, more and more of it seems to be happening.

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Sam Graham
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 - posted 11-25-2018 05:57 PM      Profile for Sam Graham   Author's Homepage   Email Sam Graham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If you’re doing this via wired jack or Bluetooth, there’s no need to provide headphones at all. Just tell the customers to bring their own. Project pairing instructions on the screen.

Customers interested in this likely are highly sensitive to certain aspects of noise and already own headphones that suit them and would rather use those than some unknown product the theater provides.

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 11-25-2018 07:08 PM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Bluetooth for such an implementation would be an inherent mess. Bluetooth is not a broadcast technology as of yet and every device would need to be individually paired. You know, that magical process where you need to press some invisible buttons on two devices simultaneously in the right sequence at the right time for the correct duration? You know, that same magical process that you have to repeat at least five times before success... or you just give up out of frustration?

(Broadcom has a technology called Broadcast Audio for Bluetooth, but it was only released somewhere this year and almost no current devices do support it.)

Headphone jacks are a dying breed, thanks to Apple & co., who started to eliminate them from our phones. Also, wiring a whole room up with headphone jacks is pretty expensive and messy.

I guess the best intermediate solution would be via wifi and an app. There are already some solutions out there, targeted at hearing or visually impaired users.

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Jack Ondracek
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 - posted 11-25-2018 07:47 PM      Profile for Jack Ondracek   Author's Homepage   Email Jack Ondracek   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Marcel Birgelen
I guess the best intermediate solution would be via wifi and an app. There are already some solutions out there, targeted at hearing or visually impaired users.
The ongoing problem with wifi is the end-to-end latency. Even the phones produce some delay.

I'm working with a company (Barix) that has a gizmo they'd like to see work in a theatre. Right now, it could reasonably manage a sound feed at a sporting event or the like, but there's still a bit too much delay for a theatre. Add to that the fact that you can hear the direct sound feed (outdoor or in), and the delay becomes more apparent.

You could advance your audio a bit in the server to compensate for that latency. Then, there are software audio processors for drive-ins and delay boxes for indoor houses that could be used to bring the audio back to where it needed to be for the auditorium or FM transmitter. That could work (and we're playing around with it), but I think it would be more wizardry than most would want to mess with.

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Marcel Birgelen
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 - posted 11-26-2018 03:04 AM      Profile for Marcel Birgelen   Email Marcel Birgelen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yes, latency and possible jitter will be quite a challenge. Constant latency, induced by processing and network components can usually be rather easily compensated. But there is an unknown factor inside the phones. The problem here is that every handset may be different and therefore may introduce a different latency. Even if he/she is using a Bluetooth headset, will add some extra miliseconds to the chain.

Now, for the illusion of audio being lipsync, there is quite a tolerance, but it obviously adds up. If the induced latency on the images and sound of the room is sufficiently big, so even the slower devices can follow, the software on the handsets could employ another trick by keeping a bigger buffer and syncing the playback with the room using queues it gets from the room, like queues that could be inserted in the room audio above the audible spectrum.

I know that in the past, there have been a few theatrical releases that had an accompanying app. (I know, the horror... [Smile] ) Those apps would sync, based on those non-audible queues. Similar apps have also been used at sporting events.

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Bobby Henderson
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 - posted 11-26-2018 11:23 PM      Profile for Bobby Henderson   Email Bobby Henderson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Marcel Birgelen
Headphone jacks are a dying breed, thanks to Apple & co., who started to eliminate them from our phones.
IIRC, the new $599 Dolby Dimension headphones have no analog jack. They connect via Bluetooth only. I could be wrong, but I thought I read something about that in one of the product reviews.

quote: Jack Ondracek
I'm working with a company (Barix) that has a gizmo they'd like to see work in a theatre. Right now, it could reasonably manage a sound feed at a sporting event or the like, but there's still a bit too much delay for a theatre. Add to that the fact that you can hear the direct sound feed (outdoor or in), and the delay becomes more apparent.
Would it be possible for the devices to sync to a common clock? I'm thinking along the lines of what TV broadcasters use for timing things like terminal breaks to shift from local to national news and other stuff like that. I guess there would still be some latency with that. Audio sync with a picture on screen and headphones has to be dead on. Even a few milliseconds off is noticeable.

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