New audio frontier: As digital cinema levels visual playing field, theatres can differentiate themselves with DCI-standard sound


The introduction of digital technology has sparked tremendous changes in movie content in the past decade, but it has also leveled the playing field for exhibitors around the world. In the “old” days before digital technology, top movie houses enjoyed the first, cleanest and highest-quality film prints of major Hollywood releases. Local neighborhood theatres got the scratchy, “hand-me-down” print reels weeks later. Today, digital technology allows every cinema house, regardless of size and location, to screen the same first-run Hollywood blockbuster in razor-sharp digital 2D and 3D, and this presents a new challenge for premium movie houses to differentiate themselves. With many theatres still using audio systems designed for 35mm film, a differentiating factor can be audio.

“Audio is the next logical step and we now have the technology to do it,” says Todd Cummings, VP of operations, Krikorian Premiere Theatres. “I think it’s going to change things in the theatre industry in trying to differentiate ourselves from the competitors.”

To address the market need for improved cinema sound, Christie, the world’s dominant brand in the digital-cinema projection market, recently launched Christie Vive Audio™, an innovative solution purpose-built for the unique demands of cinema houses. The new solution helps exhibitors “complete the experience” by offering moviegoers enhanced digital sound to complement the flawless digital images on the screen.

Christie Vive Audio leverages a unique, articulated, single-enclosure line-array speaker design and ribbon-driver technology, and combines it with the first use of efficient, high-powered Class D amplification in cinema—all at an attainable price point. The speakers and amplifiers can be easily and efficiently integrated into any existing or new theatre auditorium for the ultimate movie viewing and listening experience. The innovative design also helps increase the optimal listening area up to four times when compared to typical, compression driver-based audio systems and results in exceptionally smooth and consistent audio coverage throughout the auditorium. As well, Christie’s Class D amplifiers, which are more compatible with digital sources, are more efficient, resulting in lower operating costs.

“With Christie Vive Audio, we found a way to take all the benefits of line-array configuration and put it into a cinema environment by combining it with ribbon-driver technology and Class D amplification—all in a single, elegant audio solution that is easily attainable to exhibitors,” states Craig Sholder, Christie’s Entertainment Solutions group VP. “Christie Vive Audio represents a major leap in cinema sound, with perfect timbre-matching that unleashes the full potential of today’s uncompressed digital audio along with leading immersive audio platforms such as Dolby Atmos™.”

Jim Hall, senior product manager with Christie’s Entertainment Solutions group, notes that typical audio solutions in the market have not kept up with performance demands of DCI specifications for audio. Christie Vive Audio, specifically tailored to the unique demands of cinema auditoriums, meets those DCI specifications. “The introduction of Christie Vive Audio integrated solution heralds a new era in digital cinema,” he says. “Christie Vive Audio’s extended frequency response, high dynamic range and ultra-fast transient response, along with unprecedented peak-to-average SPL ratios and smooth and even coverage, sets a new standard in cinema sound.”

The complete Christie Vive Audio solution comprises surround and screen-channel speakers, subwoofers, and Class D amplifiers. The system is designed to perfectly integrate with the Christie Integrated Media Block (IMB) and the Christie SKA-3D audio/video processor. It offers exhibitors the opportunity to provide audiences with the ultimate movie-viewing experience, enveloping them with dynamic, richly detailed and enhanced audio where speech, special effects, music, and alternative content sound more natural and lifelike. Again, the core of the system is the combination of superior-sounding screen-channel speakers with ribbon-driver technology and the proven performance of a line-array speaker design, all in a single enclosure.

Patrick Artiaga, director of business development with Christie’s Entertainment Solutions group, observes, “The complete Christie Vive cinema audio solution can be tailored to the demands of any cinema space, from post-production studios and screening rooms to traditional and premium large-format auditoriums. Each component of Christie Vive Audio has been specifically engineered to complement the other and combine to deliver a complete solution. By combining the superior performance capabilities of each piece into one integrated solution, Christie Vive Audio can bring the next generation of cinema audio to any auditorium.”

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DLP Cinema® is a registered trademark of Texas Instruments.
Dolby® is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories, Inc.
Dolby® Atmos™ is a registered trademark of Dolby Laboratories, Inc.