IMAX vs. THX: Paradigms relating to HT

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  • JonMarsh
    Mad Max Moderator
    • Aug 2000
    • 15274

    IMAX vs. THX: Paradigms relating to HT

    I had a very pleasant experience last night, watching an above average new release at my local Regal Cinema, and it got me thinking about somethings which for me sum up my misgivings about conventional HT think and I like to approach some of the home viewing goals from a different perspective and set of tools.

    The movie in question is the new Robert Redford flick, which is well crafted, even if the plot is more than a trifle implausible. I viewed it in the IMAX theater of our local Regal Cinema. Yup, no THX, no standard THX boom box certified playback system, but instead an IMAX certified sound system (top of the line JBL horn and direct radiator systems) with good amplification, genuinely EQ'd for flat at the listener position. Of course, the screen is the IMAX monster, with only a portion utilized to playback this 2:35 widescreen image- but obviously over a reasonably well maintained 35 mm projector, unlike the sorry systems they use in the rest of the cineplex audiotoriums at this Regal Cinema.

    This is what you *should* get when you pay your money to see a movie, but with the way the econominics of movie theateres work, they'd go broke trying to do this. It's why they can't afford to do digital cinemas, either, because it's just a way for the studios to increase their profits- (by reducing print costs) and with the movie theaters only making income from the refreshments, profits aren't something they have much of.

    The sound in the IMAX theater isn't state of the art, in terms of competing with well setup high end home audio system, but it is so much better than the normal theater paradigm or HT paradigm I hear (sold in the mass market chains like Good Guys, Sound Track, Ultimate Audio, etc) that it's just extrodinarily sad people should have to put up with less. Now, the IMAX presentation for the movie costs more than the standard ticket- but believe me, it's worth it, and it's hard not to believe that a lot of people wouldn't be willing to pay a bit more for their ticket, to get comparable sound and an appropriately sized (full IMAX isn't needed, but comparable width and screen quality should be used).

    Anyway, I guess the main point of my rant, is that "THX Certified" is a rather questionable "stamp of quality" for either the movie theater itself, or the home HT Market. Thinking back on some of the many "THX Certified" LD and DVD releases of average to poor quality (inlcuding TPM), I just don't see any evidence that THX has any real relevance for raising standards of playback quality in the theater or the home for the 21st Century.

    Futhermore, there current innovations appear focused on gimmicks, not raising the standard of quality. Adding more channels of effects in the rear does not make a higher quality experience, when the fundamentals are so overlooked.

    Well, who knows, possibly I deserve to be flamed for this little rant, but I'd suggest that members take a gander at a commerical movie in an IMAX theater themselves- see for yourself if you think I'm out of my mind. You might be surprised at your conclusions.

    Best regards,

    Jon




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  • George Bellefontaine
    Moderator Emeritus
    • Jan 2001
    • 7637

    #2
    Hi,Jon,
    I found your post quite interesting. We do not have an IMAX in my town, but there is one about a 2 hour drive away. So far they have only been showing IMAX films, but I would certainly like to see a non-imax film in such a theater.I have heard that this is being done in some larger cities.One question,though, apparently the 2:35 aspect ratio is not being masked on the huge IMAX screen. Was this the case in the IMAX theater you attended ? I would find this bothersome if it were not masked properly.




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    • John Holmes
      Moderator Emeritus
      • Aug 2000
      • 2703

      #3
      Jon,

      Let me first get this out of the way. I have made it no secret, that I like and support THX (sound). For the majority of films (in my home) it works for me.

      With that said, I pretty much agree with you! (Don't you love when someone can contradict themselves in the very next sentence!)

      While I enjoy the THX sound, I won't go as far to say it is a must or even needed. I have listen to entry thru high-end set-ups that were not "certified" with very pleasing results.

      I think you hit the nail on the head about the basics. Especially in HT/2ch home audio. Most individuals have to compromise so much in their home, that sound becomes second to looks or lack of proper space. And don't get me started on theaters.

      From the video aspect, THX has really hurt what ever decent reputation they had. I have seen nothing to date, that supports THX made this film look better. However, I have seen quite a bit to make me feel just the opposite!

      When something that is a direct spawn of THX (TPM) does not WOW me at every scene for video quality (though it does have it's moments) you have to say, hmmmmm! Not to mention, many other films to boot which carry the logo of superior processing.

      I have to yield and agree, I would choose a set-up which has been done right over another simply bearing the "seal of approval".

      I haven't been to an IMAX in years. Must put that on my to do list!




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      • Markj
        Senior Member
        • Aug 2000
        • 323

        #4
        Jon you are so right. I saw Fantasia 2000 at an Imax and it was so much better than a regular theater. I totally agree about THX. I think some of my worst DVDs have been THX certified. None of my components in my home theater are THX and at this point I do not consider the THX logo on anything as a benefit. There just is no added value.

        Comment

        • JonMarsh
          Mad Max Moderator
          • Aug 2000
          • 15274

          #5
          The IMAX where I saw "The Last Castle" was part of a Regal Cinema complex in Dublin CA, about 8 miles from where I live.

          At this theater they show both IMAX films, which are essentially a 4:3 format (but enormous- many stories tall), and also "conventional" current run films.

          For the "conventional" films, a different projector is used, which is an anamorphic widescreen playback, so the screen is not illuminated or visible in the portion not carrying the film. The illuminated portion is centered vertically. The projection quality is roughly comparable to what I've seen in the last 70mm wide screen theater in Denver; the screen width is about the same. The audio at that theater in Denver was much better than average (it was *NOT* a THX certifed room), but the IMAX standard is higher still, I'd say. It's the best I've heard in large venue sound.

          In the Bay area, there are only two other IMAX theaters that I'm aware of; one at the Great America amusement park; admission requires park attendance, which is closed November through March. The other is at the Tech Museum in downtown San Jose; this one is one of the "dome" screen IMAX auditoriums, which I don't like as much; you're in a reclining chair, and it's a wrap around field of view. It may work well with some titles, and creates an immersive experience, but I find I still prefer having the image in front of me in a more manageable field of view. You mileage may vary.

          For those of you with an IMAX somewhere within reasonable driving distance, I certainly recommend setting aside part of a weekend sometime to re-experience it; if you've never done IMAX before, man, have you got a treat in store!!

          In an ideal world, maybe we'd come to see HD-DVD IMAX certified some day in the future- or "HD Movie" for feature films more common, with a modified IMAX audiotorium (16:9 format screen- wouldn't be quite so tall and expensive to build- but keep the sound standards! :B )

          Best regards,

          Jon




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          • P-Dub
            Office Moderator
            • Aug 2000
            • 6766

            #6
            Anyway, I guess the main point of my rant, is that "THX Certified" is a rather questionable "stamp of quality" for either the movie theater itself, or the home HT Market. Thinking back on some of the many "THX Certified" LD and DVD releases of average to poor quality (inlcuding TPM), I just don't see any evidence that THX has any real relevance for raising standards of playback quality in the theater or the home for the 21st Century
            I agree with you on your main rant. In the past, being the neophite, I didn't even know about the difference between THX, DD, DTS, SDDS. The one thing I did know was I loved the cool THX trailer at the start of some of the movies. I can recall the first theater in my area that was THX certified. Now that I've taken an interest in HT and more so in movies and their presentation. I'm am totally disgusted with the THX presentations that I've seen. I've read up on THX and how it was supposed to standardize the presentation across movie theaters. And I think in the past it has accomplished that task, but I don't think it has improved the quality of the presentations. I don't even know if THX has any kind of annual recertification. I honestly don't think they do. I say this because I've been to a few movies that were originally THX theaters, but the presentations was flat. I make it a point to see action type movies with lots of explosions, etc, and everytime I've been underwhelmed at the presentation. Only in the newest of cinema's, the SilverCitys, have the audio impact that I'm expecting.

            On the video side, I'm not as critical. But let's get into the home side of THX. In effect the THX certification for software is a joke. A DVD that carries a THX stamp vs one produced by say Pixar, Dreamworks, New Line. I'd say the studio is more of an indication of quality than the THX stamp.

            For home audio standards, I really can't say based on experience. What I have read is that THX is supposed to ensure the power is adequate for various room sizes, Select is 3,000 and under and Ultra(?) for larger areas.




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            • ThomasW
              Moderator Emeritus
              • Aug 2000
              • 10934

              #7
              IMAX audio rulz!

              We're lucky enough to have 2 regular IMAX theaters in Denver, and a 3D dome in Colo Spgs.

              The sound in IMAX theaters is the finest large venue sound I've ever heard. It's interesting, they use all JBL horn loudspeakers. So whoever balances the systems really knows what their doing.




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              Comment

              • Markj
                Senior Member
                • Aug 2000
                • 323

                #8
                Thomas my mom lived in Aurora. I think the IMAX that I was at was next to the I 25.

                Comment

                • ThomasW
                  Moderator Emeritus
                  • Aug 2000
                  • 10934

                  #9
                  Mark

                  Yep, there's a commercial one at I-25 and Colo Blvd. The other, one of the first in the country, is in the Natural History Museum




                  theAudioWorx
                  Klone-Audio

                  IB subwoofer FAQ page


                  "Complicated equipment and light reflectors and various other items of hardware are enough, to my mind, to prevent the birdie from coming out." ...... Henri Cartier-Bresson

                  Comment

                  • Bruce
                    Senior Member
                    • Aug 2000
                    • 156

                    #10
                    My rant with THX standards.

                    I've always thought THX certification actually held back better audio reproduction, specifically when it came to the bass management provided by manufacturers in HT processors/receivers.

                    The THX standard of a -12dB high pass filter and a -24dB low-pass filter actually make it very hard to match mains with subs and get a smooth transition. It only really works with Mains which also have a natural -12dB low frequency rolloff.

                    I've found (IMHO) symmetrical -24dB Linkwitz-Riley xovers with zero (0) phase offset to provide better integration with a main and sub.

                    Bruce




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                    Comment

                    • JonMarsh
                      Mad Max Moderator
                      • Aug 2000
                      • 15274

                      #11
                      One of many valid points...

                      Today, THX too often looks to me like carry overs of kluges perpetuated as a marketing and sales tool, not as a platform for the advancement of home theater fidelity.

                      Regards,

                      Jon




                      Earth First!
                      _______________________________
                      We'll screw up the other planets later....
                      the AudioWorx
                      Natalie P
                      M8ta
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                      Isiris
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                      In Development...
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                      Natalie P Supreme
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                      Resistance is not futile, it is Volts divided by Amperes...
                      Just ask Mr. Ohm....

                      Comment

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