What's in a name?

Over the past two years, you may have noticed a small change to your cinema-going experience. The Datasat Digital Sound logo has begun to appear on film posters and end credits. So, what does seeing our logo actually mean?

Crystal clear dialogue and breath-taking scores

George Lucas is famously quoted as saying that ‘sound is 50% of the movie-going experience’. Yet, cinema is still thought of as primarily a visual experience. The role that sound plays in adding impact and enjoyment can easily be overlooked.

Yet if you think about it, the huge immersive and panoramic soundscapes that accompany today’s movies can really only be created in a cinema theater. Without consciously considering what we expect from the audio element of the movie, we want crystal clear dialogue and breath-taking movie scores. We want effects to be awesome and a natural quality to the sound that brings us closer to the action. We like to feel we’re almost in the scene.

A ‘stamp’ of quality

The thing is that, today, that’s just what we expect. We’re no longer surprised when we receive this experience. We’re just disappointed when the listening experience falls short of our unconscious expectations.

This situation is no accident. It is the result of over 20 years of hard work by some of the best sound professionals in the world. It’s difficult to over-estimate how visionary the work that we – when we were part of DTS® – and Dolby Laboratories® conducted on digital surround sound in the early 1990s.

When our first films hit the big screen, it seemed that the cinema industry moved from essentially mono sound to full stereo surround. The reaction of theater audiences was amazing. It was like seeing you first film in full 3D. Cinema goers were hearing the movie is a way that was simply not possible before.

It didn’t happen overnight but, once digital surround was established, it was clear that this would become the sound set-up for every theater – large or small. The sight of the DTS or Dolby logo on the poster or credits was the promise that a new level of listening experience was in store for the viewer.

Since then, two things have happened. Movie-goers have gotten used to having a superior listening experience that didn’t exist only a generation or two before. Secondly, we have learned from our mistakes and improved the surround experience and worked with the film producers to develop more and more sophisticated soundscapes for the movies that you see at your local cinema.

Did we say mistakes? Yes.
It’s very rare that you get something right the first time. We loved the power that we had at our fingertips and we may have wanted to create bigger and bigger effects. We loved the idea that we could give you the fireworks! The WOW factor. But, those crunching giant footsteps coming towards you in Jurassic Park are only a small part of what our sound technology can deliver.

A learning experience

We had to learn that and we had to develop our technology to deliver the real power of digital surround sound. That’s what we’ve done over the last two decades. We have brought to the cinema experience a level of sound quality that even we would have found hard to imagine in 1993. New transparent sound that places every sound in its correct position in terms of where the sound comes from and when it happens.

Cinemas are not an easy environment to achieve this level of sound quality. They are ‘flat’ open auditoruims. Some have balconies. Others have raised stages or unusual seating formations. Delivering the same high quality listening experience to everyone – no matter where they are in the theater – is a feat of technology and engineering.

Which brings us back to the Datasat Digital Sound logo. When you see our logo you know that you are receiving the benefit of that 20 years of digital sound development. To place this in context, there are only three digital cinema sound formats in existence. Our logo guarantees the most advanced and mature digital sound experience that can take you past the original 5.1 digital surround sound to 7.1, 11.1 or beyond into 3D sound.

Leading the transition to digital sound

With the traditional 35mm movie print that most movie theaters still use today, we employ a combination of a sophisticated time codec on the print with a highly engineered sound file on external media to provide the digital surround. This approach has the advantage of requiring less data compression than the other digital sound formats available to deliver outstanding audio fidelity. It also means that the sound remains crisp and sharp without the degradation that occurs when part of an acetate print.
As the cinema industry moves towards a fully digital format, we are at the forefront of delivering the new generation of digital audio processors that will take cinema sound to the next level. These processors are built on the experience – and technology platform – that almost we alone have developed while pioneering and evolving digital surround sound for theater production.
So the next time you see the Datasat Digital Sound logo, you’ll know the movie you’re about to watch or the theater you’re about to enter will make the audio every bit as great as the visuals.