Silence is Golden

Except at the Cineplex. I took my son out to see a movie yesterday.

There was something wrong with the sound system. A state-of-the-art digital sound system was not reproducing centre channel or the surrounds. The left channel was about 6dB stronger than the right.

No one seemed to notice any issues with the sound as the “coming attractions” trailers were being shown. I made my way out of the movie theatre to inform one of the staff that they had a problem with their sound system.

The manager came into the theatre with me.

Manager: “What’s wrong with the sound?”
Me: “The center channel is not on and the surrounds are not on. The left channel is louder than the right channel.”
Manager: “It sounds fine to me.”
Me: “Can you hear any dialog?”
Manager: “Are you sure that there is supposed to be dialog in this trailer?”
Me: “It’s a commercial. There is always dialog.”
Manager: “Well. I’ll go and check if there is a problem.”

Moments later, the projection stopped and one of the staff told us that there was a technical problem and that the movie needed to be rebooted. Must be a Windows-based movie.

After several attempts, the sound system still did not perform. They gave us a free pass and moved us to a different room to watch, and hear, the movie.

Movie theatre sound is divided into two chains: the A chain and the B chain.

The A chain takes audio from the movie and processes the audio. Usually as discrete surround sound. The B chain is the amplification and speaker systems. There had been a thunderstorm in the area and I suspect that a power surge or brief blackout had impacted the B chain.

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