Ben Drawbaugh from Engadget HD had the pleasure of meeting with SRS Labs while at CES to check out their latest offerings. While their new products are cool, he came away far more impressed with their vision of how the audio in movies could be mastered in the future, and I’m in complete agreement that this should be how it’s done!
Currently, when the audio for a Blu-ray movie is mixed it is done by putting six separate channels of audio onto the disk. One channel of audio for each of your speakers in your 5.1 setup. Then your audio video receiver (AVR) simply sends the audio to the specified channel, as it’s instructed. This obviously works, as we’ve been enjoying this setup for years, but there are problems. What if your speakers aren’t arranged exactly how the movie’s director had envisioned? Most likely they aren’t, so you’re not really experiencing the movie the way you are supposed to. Also, what if you’ve purchased a 7.1 setup? What if you buy a 9.2 setup in three years? Will the discs support that? Will your AVR support it?
SRS Labs has a better idea, and it should simplify the entire process. Instead of having a pre-defined number of discrete audio streams, what if the movie director could just say that a particular sound should be heard from a given point in three-dimensional space at a specific intensity? Forget the third dimension for a moment to just provide a simple example. The movie your watching has a gun fight. A bullet should be shot from your 5 o’clock position. In your current setup, you’ll only hear it from the 5 o’clock position if you actually have a speaker there. Now, imagine when you brought your brand new 12 speaker setup home from the store that it had you run a calibration. That calibration would then determine where all of your speakers are in relation to your sitting position. Then, when you were watching that gun fight your receiver would just know that the bullet should be shot from the 5 o’clock position, and it would calculate which speaker, or speakers, it should use to place that sound exactly where it should be.
Let’s say two years later you can put 15 speakers in your house. The movie wouldn’t need to be remastered to take advantage of your new gear, because it would also know exactly what position sounds should be played from. Now take this to third dimension. You could have speakers at ear level, near the ground, and on the ceiling. When the earth starts rumbling in a movie, you would hear it from the speakers at ground level. If a plane flew over you’d hear it from the speakers on the ceiling. All of this, without the movie studios being required to re-master the audio every few years to take advantage of newer AVRs with more and more speakers.
To me this sounds like the perfect solution to mastering movies in the future. Of course it will require the audio video receiver manufacturers, and the movie studios to get on board also. I can’t see the electronics manufacturers getting in the way as this would help them to sell more new products. The movie studios could potentially fight it though as they receive more revenue by re-releasing movies. We”ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.
Source: Engadget HD