QSC Audio and Pro Sound, Inc. Team Up for the Ultimate IMAX Upgrade

on January 05, 2010
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San Diego, CA - The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, home to the world's first, and San Diego's only, IMAX Dome Theater, is celebrating the completion of its state-of-the-art renovation. Featuring a unique 6.1 surround sound system designed by QSC plus ProTools HD 3 Accel playback, the audio system design may presage a new era in theater sound systems. Why Pro Tools for playback?

The Fleet Center often runs six different films per day, requiring very different audio settings for each performance. Program material varies widely, from the Center's primary focus on educational material to pure entertainment IMAX presentations such as The Rolling Stones - At The Max, Chronos, and Stomp Odyssey. With the new design, levels and other settings can now be programmed well ahead of time, ensuring both smoother operations and spontaneous elements including announcements, inserts and customized for walk in/walk out music via iTunes.

Two benefits of using the film industry's standard audio production system for automated playback are; a) provide film mixers the ability to use the facility as a sort of ultimate real time surround mix facility, and, b) allow composers and producers a more efficient way to transfer tracks and stem mixes directly to the theater for test screenings.

In the typically crazed, last minute environment caused by a director's need for music and soundtrack changes, this theater-as-mix-stage capability removes an important level of uncertainty for film producers.

Equally crucial to delivering an audience experience unerringly faithful to the director's vision is the 6.1 surround audio delivered by the world class audio system designed by San Diego's Michael Krewitsky of Pro Sound, Inc., solely around QSC Audio components.

Interestingly, the "6" in this unique surround setup has earned the nickname "The Voice of God" refers to speakers placed at the very top of the dome. What drives it all? Four Basis Controllers (922AZ and 914), commanding six DCA 1644 amplifiers and two DCA 3422 sub amplifiers that drive six SC-424-8F 4-way Dual 15-inch full-range speakers and four SB-7218 dual 18-inch subwoofers. According to the designer, the combination renders whisper-quiet to thunderous dynamics and exceptionally accurate audio playback.

Barry Ferrell, QSC's Senior Director of Cinema Solutions, begins his explanation of the theater's hallmark level of accuracy with the reason why the company viewed the achievement as mission-critical: "QSC Audio has long been the mainstay in movie theater power amplification because of our reputation for reliability and, to some extent, transparent sound. But some of our more demanding customers have become increasingly unhappy with their older speaker systems, because film producers have been raising the bar for what needs to be reproduced accurately in theatrical releases. That pushed us not just to enter the theater speaker market, but to do so with a very high bar in mind."

QSC Cinema Sales Director Francois Godfrey adds another dimension of the dilemma his customers face: "Industry observers point out that if theater owners don't exceed the level of quality people experience in their own home theaters, it's a recipe for declining theater attendance. Since there's every reason to believe the audio challenges from the film community won't get any easier, we saw establishing a clear lead in accurate reproduction as a strategic necessity."

Ferrell adds, "If you're marketing to owners competing on exceptional theater experiences, there's really no point offering prosaic ‘me too' solutions."

Continuing on the business need at the core of QSC's cinema speaker vision, Ferrell admits not every theater owner now believes better-than-prosaic audio quality is a business necessity. "But there's substantial agreement among theater industry analysts that it's just a matter of time before the combined hammer of slimming margins and attendance declines force a change," he asserts.

That forward leaning strategy, and a reputation for exceptionally close working relationships with consultants, gave QSC Audio the edge to provide the amplifier, processing, and speaker solution for the "flagship dome of its type on Planet Earth," states Michael Krewitsky.

"QSC was the place to go because the products, first of all, sounded the best, and they were the most responsive company, as far as coming back and saying ‘yes, we'll build you what you want,'" John Young, A/V specialist for the Center.

Although there were significant cost efficiencies in the purchase, John adds, "cost savings wasn't the first thing on our list. We wanted the best thing we could possibly get. QSC Audio has rock solid gear."

The decision to go with QSC wasn't a spur of the moment choice for the renovation team. Over the course of two years, John and Mike carefully compared audio systems and capability from every major player in the industry.

Krewitsky explains, "This is another reason why QSC got the job. Because the company has really been focusing on the cinema speaker business - speakers for actual movie theaters. And these are a specialized version of their cinema line. This is theater stuff that's adapted especially for surround sound and IMAX. QSC has been really pushing the envelope on this new technology."

How did the job turn out for Pro Sound, Inc? "We've become aware that several people who have heard this newest IMAX have stated, it's easily the best sounding IMAX theater in the world... And the finished audio installation cost the facility owners 15 percent less than some other IMAX theaters," Krewitsky concludes.

Audio Equipment List:
The 6.1 surround system:
2 Basis 922az controllers
2 Basis 914 controllers
6 DCA 1644 amplifiers
2 DCA 3422 sub amplifiers
6 SC-424-8F 4-way dual 15-inch full range speakers with custom horn pattern
4 stock SB-7218 dual 18-inch subs
Pro Tools HD 3 Accel for Mac

QSC Audio Products, Inc. is a leading manufacturer of power amplifiers, loudspeakers, signal processing, digital signal transport, and computer control systems for professional audio markets worldwide. For more information, contact QSC Audio Products, Inc., 1675 MacArthur Blvd., Costa Mesa, CA 92626 USA. Phone: 800-854-4079 (USA only) or 714-754-6175. Fax: 714-754-6174. E-mail: info@qscaudio.com, or visit their official site.

Tags: imax, qsc, technology, cinema audio
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