Oscar winner all praise for acoustics at Chennai theatres
By Daniel Thimmayya | Published: 12th March 2013 07:56 AM |
Given that this is his first visit to India, Academy Award winning sound technology producer Ioan Allen didn’t quite know what to expect in an Indian theatre. “I’ve never been here before and though I’ve heard a lot, I’ve never seen an Indian theatre,” he said. Explaining the pros and cons of Dolby’s new Atmos sound system at SPI Cinemas (Sathyam cinemas) Streak inside Express Avenue mall, he admitted to being impressed with the design and upkeep of the multiplex. Incidentally, with Dolby’s Atmos being hailed as one of the best theatre sound systems in the world, it is a matter of pride that Chennai has the most Atmos equipped screens In India - Streak (Escape), Serene (Sathyam) and Luxe (Phoenix Marketcity).
Atmos has speakers on the ceiling and delivers object-based sound, one speaker at a time, but for Chennaiites who have watched Life of Pi and Rajinikanth’s Sivaji 3D, not much needs to be said about Atmos’ virtues.
It’s important to have well designed theatres because installing a system like Atmos requires lot of remodelling - something that most theatre owners would be wary of. “Every time we bring in a new system, some theatre owners have been reluctant, but eventually they get around because of the difference in quality,” said Allen, who is the senior vice president of Dolby, and has worked there since 1969. “I’ve introduced every new Dolby system since we started with noise-reduction in audio casettes,” he said. And it’s the same with Atmos, as they begin to sell the systems from April. “The cost of our technology isn’t too much - but the amount that the theatres will have to spend on modifying their halls and adding speakers might take a bit,” he agreed.
With five awards for technical and engineering achievement in sound design from the Academy besides an actual Oscar, Allen is one of the top experts in sound design in the world. “Indian movies have a lot of song-and-dance routines and are much longer, which is quite different from Hollywood. But I believe that every movie, whether its mixed in Atmos or not, needs a sound designer who makes a ‘sound storyboard’ along with the visual one,” he said. Given how Indian directors have been known to improvise scripts on the sets, this seems quite some distance away. “That’s the committment that goes into using great technology to make a great movie. I don’t want audiences to walk out of the theatre and say ‘what great sound’. I want them to say ‘what a great movie’ at the end of it,” he explained.