General FAQs

Your questions on audio processing for professional cinema and Datasat Digital Sound answered in this useful list of frequently asked questions.

Cinema Processors

What is a cinema processor?
How many channels should be included in a cinema processor?
What are the basic features a cinema processor should possess?
Do cinema processors only play movies?
Can my cinema processor damage my speakers?
Can I install a cinema processor by myself?
Are room optimization features built into the cinema processor?
Why is room optimization so important?
We play an increasing amount of alternative content. Do I need to re-tune the room each time I switch content?
There’s a good deal about 3D sound at the moment. Are current cinema processors capable of 3D sound?

What is a cinema processor?

A cinema processor is a system that enables the audio playback of movie soundtracks within theaters. The processor should be capable of playing back digital and analog content in a wide array of sound formats. Modern cinema processors also have the capability to accommodate video and HD content.

How many channels should be included in a cinema processor?

As a minimum, a cinema processor will be required to play back 5.1 digital surround sound. That means that the processors needs at least 8 channels of input and output. As the variety of content that a theater wishes to display increases and surround sound develops, a 16 channel cinema processor becomes necessary. For example, the Datasat AP20 includes 16 channels of digital and 8 channels of analog inputs allied to 16 channels of digital and 16 channels of analog outputs.

What are the basic features a cinema processor should possess?

Apart from the number of input and output channels you require, you will need highly granular control of the sound through equalization – both third octave and parametric – phase control and audio delays. For the greatest control, look for processors that can fulfil all these functions at an individual channel level. In addition, the processor should have video pass-thru capabilities and extensive management features including the capture of the ideal sound set-up for different types of content and the ability to switch between them.

Do cinema processors only play movies?

No. Today, a cinema processor must be capable of delivering a whole range of alternative content. With margins lean for theaters, exhibitors have to be able to seize new opportunities easily. Special events, music concerts and live sport offer attractive revenue streams. The cinema processor should be capable of producing the sound experience appropriate to the content being displayed.

Can my cinema processor damage my speakers?

Yes. Any digital playback system will place considerable demands on the amplifiers and speakers in the theater. When installing and setting up a cinema processor, you must consider factors such as speaker efficiency, room size and room acoustics. It is always highly advisable to have your system installed by a trained engineer from your supplier or dealer.

Can I install a cinema processor by myself?

Yes. But, you’ll need a good deal of experience in the area. The cinema processor is the heart of a cinema’s audio capabilities. It is a sophisticated and feature-rich system. To get the most from it, it is highly recommended to have your processor installed by a trained engineer from your supplier or dealer.

Are room optimization features built into the cinema processor?

At Datasat Digital Entertainment, we believe they should be. All our cinema processors include Dirac Live® room optimization technology. However, not all cinema processors do. If you wish room optimization to form part of your cinema processor solution check with the supplier about how they handle this important area.

Why is room optimization so important?

The sound stage of every theater is different. In addition to overcoming the interference from room and speaker design, you need to accommodate how the listener will perceive the sound at different points within the theater. Creating the largest sweet spot possible means being able to correct for every element of the acoustic behavior of the auditorium.

We play an increasing amount of alternative content. Do I need to re-tune the room each time I switch content?

No. The cinema processor you select should include a range of memory presets. This will allow you to tune the room once for each content type and then simple switch the preset at the press of a button. In multi-screen cinemas where room design is identical – or very similar – this approach allows you to tune one room and then simply re-load the presets onto the cinema processors in other rooms with little or no extra tuning.

There’s a good deal about 3D sound at the moment. Are current cinema processors capable of 3D sound?

The simple answer is yes. But, of course, there are few simple answers. In essence, 3D sound is a 9.1 surround sound format with height speakers added to speakers in the horizontal plane. In reality, most cinemas moving to 3D sound will employ a 11.1 or 13.1 format. So, any cinema processor that includes 16 channels is, in theory, capable of playing 3D sound. The issue is how to play it back cost-effectively. The 3D audio soundtrack needs to created and distributed in a way that it will fold back seamlessly into other surround sound formats where 3D capabilities are not available. Auro3D, the first commercially available 3D sound system, uses 24 channels to achieve this.

Datasat Digital Sound

What does Datasat Digital Entertainment do for cinema?
What is the difference between DTS® and Datasat Digital Entertainment?
How does Datasat Digital Sound work?
Does Datasat Digital Sound contain access features?
What’s needed for cinema playback of Datasat Digital Sound?
How do I get a trailer disc for Datasat Digital Sound?
How can I encode a film into Datasat Digital Sound?
The cinema industry is going digital. What will happen to Datasat Digital Sound?

What does Datasat Digital Entertainment do for cinema?

Datasat Digital Entertainment is a leading provider of digital sound to the cinema industry. Its single print solution and access technologies have heightened the listening experience within cinemas worldwide. As the industry transitions from film to fully digital, the company’s new generation of digital cinema processors are helping deliver new opportunities for exhibitors and content providers.

What is the difference between DTS and Datasat Digital Entertainment?

DTS sold off its Cinema Division in 2008, which included DTS Digital Sound. Today, the same timecode technology is known as Datasat Digital Sound. The consumer division of DTS is still in existence, providing various digital sound formats for products such as DVDs and Blu-Rays.

How does Datasat Digital Sound work?

The Datasat Digital Entertainment system consists of two components: the player and the reader. The player connects to the theater’s existing sound system, cinema processor, video projector and the Internet. For each feature, a special Datasat timecode is printed on the motion picture film. Datasat produces an audio disc that is supplied with the film, which includes the full surround soundtrack. Once a film starts, the Datasat reader sees the timecode and sends information to the Datasat player. The timecode tells the player what to play on the discs. Each feature has its own unique timecode ensuring that only the matching discs play with the film. Films released in Datasat Digital Sound also include and analog back-up. If a problem occurs in the Datasat system, the Datasat player automatically switches the cinema processor out of the digital format and into analog sound.

Does Datasat Digital Sound contain access features?

Yes. Datasat-Access discs are also made for films that contain descriptive narration and/or captions for front, on-screen, or rear display (open and closed captions). Access content is determined by the Film Distributor.

What’s needed for cinema playback of Datasat Digital Sound?

To playback Datasat Digital Sound, a theater requires the following hardware: A cinema processor (Datasat or compatible), speakers and amps, a Datasat player, a reader head, and cables. The media requires a film print and matching Datasat audio discs from the release studio.

How do I get a trailer disc for Datasat Digital Sound?

Datasat issues the trailer discs to theaters. The trailer titles are written on the disc itself. For additional questions about studio trailers please click here. The new Datasat trailer is now available in the USA and Canada. It is currently available in both 5.1 and 7.1.

How can I encode a film into Datasat Digital Sound?

Special encoding equipment is required to encode a film into Datasat Digital Sound for playback in cinema theaters. A license is required. If you are a film-maker or studio that would like to include Datasat Digital Sound on your next release.

The cinema industry is going digital. What will happen to Datasat Digital Sound?

Once the movie industry has become fully digital, there will be no requirement for digital audio that is separate from the movie on new releases. In the meantime, theaters must continue to support this type of system until the studios no longer use 35mm film. After this, there will still be a small role for Datasat Digital Sound for the display for older prints that have not been converted to digital. The Datasat approach of placing the audio track on CD ensures that there is no loss of sound quality over time for these movies. With the introduction of fully digital releases, the attention is turning from the ability to deliver digital surround sound to the ability to create the most transparent, true-to-source sound experience. The focus will move to the cinema processor.