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Auro3D – The Next Generation of Home Cinema Sound

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Auro3D – The Next Generation of Home Cinema Sound

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last seven years you would have at least heard of 3D cinema, if not seen a film in 3D. However, despite the original hype, it must be said 3D didn’t really take off as people predicted. In my opinion, there are a few reasons people have been put off 3D movies. There’s the glasses, the price and some get a bit of a headache during a long 3D film.

Despite the negatives, there is one large positive that needs to be mentioned. There is no denying the immersivity of 3D. The idea of 3D cinema really is to make you feel as if you are actually in the film and everything is happening around you.

Luckily for all those like me who don’t get on with 3D screens in their current form, there is a new way to be immersed in film. Yes, I am talking about 3D sound.

When you think about it in terms of technological advancements, cinematic sound has been evolving at lot slower than vision, in the last 20 years really all that has happened is a few more speakers have been added to surround the viewer; all in one plane.

That was until Belgian sound engineer Wilfried Van Baelen decided to start from scratch and design Auro3D sound. The main principle of Auro3D is to literally add a new dimension to surround sound. With the standard 5.1 surround or even 7.1 surround sound, the speakers are still only on the X and Y axis, meaning that the sound can revolve around you on the horizontal plain but no more than that. 3D sound adds the z-dimension by applying a height and top layer of speakers. As shown in the diagram below this completely immerses the viewer is a world of lifelike sound.

Auro 3D

It is not just the obvious advantage of being able to hear a light-saber swoop from behind you, over your head to in front of you face; there is a whole spectrum of noise that is missed out in 2D sound. Yes, you can hear the birds tweeting from the trees, planes flying over head and thunder, but the real point of adding the height is to add depth to the sound. When adding the height layer into recordings, there is an added ambience, which is amazing- the acoustics of the space, the reflections of sounds off buildings/tress all feed in to complete the audible picture. It is not until you hear 3D sound in the cinema, that you realise how much you have been missing out on all these years.

At Adair Acoustic, we were lucky enough to get a chance to try out this new technology first hand. We were invited to the launch afternoon of the new DATASAT LS10 home cinema processor, the first device capable of bring Auro 3D sound into the home cinema. The reputation of 3D sound is already building quickly in the industry, so much so that Dreamworks have recently committed to producing their next 15 movies in Auro 11.1 3D.

Datasat LS10

The LS10 ‘Luxury Series’ processor is a more affordable version of their current reference and award winning RS20i processor, regarded by many in the industry as the best home cinema processor currently available.  In order to provide Auro3D 13.1 sound the LS10 features 15 digital audio channels and extensive equalization functionality.

As well as Auro3D, the LS10 also works with most other sound formats including Dolby TrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS Neo:X.

The demonstration was held in Bracknell, Berkshire at the offices of Genesis Technologies. Champagne and sandwiches were on offer as members of Datasat, Auro Technologies and Genesis all presented about both the Auro3D experience and the LS10. Once the talks were over, the really good bit began; we were invited to test Auro3D for ourselves in Genesis’ £900k ‘ICE’ demonstration cinema.

Genesis Technologies ICE Cinema

I always think that you know you are in for a good experience when the cinema has couches instead of individual seats. My thinking definitely held up on this one. We were played a 20 minute demonstration video. The first ten minutes or so were filled with explanation and examples of what Auro3D could do; the most interesting element of this section for me was when it demonstrated the difference that each layer of sound has. The video played a couple of sequences with just 5.1 surround and then added the height layer and then the ‘Voice of God’ top layer and finally removed them again. It was easy to see what was happening, the sound was increasing but so was the depth and life of the sound. There was one sequence in particular that struck me. It was a countryside location and as a tractor drove past it was ridiculously lifelike in 3D, it really felt as if a five tonne tractor was brushing past my shoulder.

The second section of the demonstration video consisted of a number of sequences from films released in Auro3D including Turbo, Red Wings and Elysium. For me the highlight of this section came from the Dutch film ‘The Blitz’. It was a war scene or a small town being bombed in the Biltz, never have I really been able to really comprehend what it must be like to be in a situation like that, although I would imagine it was still very far from being an actually warzone, this was the closest I had ever felt to the real thing. You could say I was immersed.

It’s safe to say from the reactions of everyone who came out of the demo that they were pretty impressed too, and when you bear in mind that these were all custom installers who have heard some great systems in their time, that is quite an achievement by Datasat.

Looking at it in terms of how 3D sound compares to what is currently available in home cinemas. At the moment you get a flat layer of revolving sound surrounding you, but you are not really immersed. If you were to watch a recording of a busy street near your home and then actually go out to the street and listen to the real thing, you would notice a vast difference to the sound.  That is the difference the height layer makes. Auro3D puts you bang in the middle of world filled with true-to- life sound. If you want to feel the atmosphere of a movie, this really is the only way to go.

So, next time you hear someone talking about seeing a film in 3D make sure you ask them if they mean 3D visuals or 3D sound, because is my opinion Auro3D is going to pick up where the other 3D has, in my opinion, failed.

Let’s hope cinemas will start to place more importance on sound and use better speakers and amps, I still find it amazing how few cinemas can sound better than a nice £10K home cinema setup that we can put together.

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