This last November we went to interview Dominic Simons - Head of technical services and Chris Clarke - Technical services manager on their recent cinema upgrades at the National Film Theater and the installation of an Ovation2 Trinnov cinema processor with their new Christie Digital line array speaker system
Can you first tell us about what you do at the National Film Theater?
This is BFI south bank a four screen cinema on the banks of the River Thames you could say it's a national cinema tech and we show a wide range of films from the whole history of filmmaking from the late 1800s right to the present day. What we try to do here is keep all forms of projection alive and usable, so we work with some obsolete systems in 35 / 60 and 70 mm all the way through to digital cinema.
We've got four screening rooms cinemas theaters from this one we're in now NFT one 450 seats, so this is the kind of original national film theater and then you as we go back across our building we've got these different areas as well as having the different technologies we've got the kind of different styles of cinemas, almost like different architectures throughout the building so it's quite a sort of split-up building with each three-four quite unique cinemas in the building.
We show a wide range of films from director retrospectives classics archival films to new releases independent films. As well, we show a lot of television here with many events and introductions to films with filmmakers and directors really caring about what we put on screen and what people can see and what they can hear.
What type of acoustic challenges did you face here at the NFT ?
The main auditorium is 450 seats and was built in 1957. it's quite an unusual shape for a cinema these days, it's a fan shape so you've got an expansive seating array so you've got any kinds of seating positions and that causes challenges in terms of hearing.
So if you're sat in the middle in our main auditorium you might get a different experience than if you're seated to the far left or the far right and that's why we've decided to install line arrays so we could get wider dispersion and better auditory angles for all audience members, we think that the new installation we have here with the Christie line array speakers and the Trinnov gives everyone who comes to see films here a better experience.
What is your impression of Trinnov’s Optimizer ?
As someone with long-term experience on computer-based systems from Doremi to Christie, I found the Trinnov pretty straightforward to use and understand, It is very visual, I'm seeing curves, I'm seeing numbers and I know what those numbers.
Overall, I feel like, with the Trinnov and our new speaker system we've quite moved up to date in terms of what sound systems can do with these improved technologies, you can definitely hear that with our new system, creating a more focused tighter clearer sound.
All BFI Southbank theaters now features Trinnov Ovation2 processors
Has the Optimizer improved the audio experience for moviegoers?
One of the biggest problems in cinema today is the way dialogue drops into the mix and i think with the new line array system and the Trinnov we've given the audio and the dialogue mix in the film's the best opportunity to be heard and to be clear for everyone.
And it's not just for modern films either I mean we show a considerable range of films from 1930s mono films all the way through to full 7.1 mixes so we have to be able to ensure that the audio and particularly the dialogue is clear for a whole range of genres and a whole range of ages of films.
I think with the Trinnov we are definitively giving the audience the best opportunity to get clear crisp clean dialogue.
Something I definitely noticed with the Trinnov is that it's easy to get that feeling of the mix as a whole: you're hearing the dialogue better but you're not over noticing it's not too loud it's not too present and it's clear and at the same time you're still getting the action you want from the cinema may it be from the music or from the sound effects.
What were your first impressions after installing the Ovation2 processor?
We went through a big process in this room during the lockdown we ripped out the screen, the baffle wall all the old speaker system, overall did a lot of work in the room and basically rebuilt it back from the front.
So when Ed and I redid the calibration, we had the time to work our way through it and better understand the system and how to make it do what we wanted to, at the end of that day we did a before and after of what we'd done and yeah, it sounded great ! The next day the rest of the team came in to listen to what we've done and I think everyone agreed that it sounded fantastic and was quite an improvement from the previous setup.
Trinnov Ovation2 Processor
What was the reception from team members and moviegoers ?
This is a superb sound system and I think everyone was quite impressed from that point when the Ovation went in, I definitely noticed an improvement in the detail and clarity of the audio in all locations, the dialogues in particular definitely came out more detailed and clearer in general.
As well there have been a couple of filmmakers who said that the sound has improved after the recent refurbishment, I mean we never thought it was terrible in here by any stretch but it's undoubtedly an improvement to the audio since the Ovation2 has gone in.