Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An interview with Tomlinson Holman, pt. 3

by Matteo Milani, U.S.O. Project, April 2009
(Continued from Page 2)

MM: Where did come the idea to write your book Sound for Film and Television? When you started teaching at school?

TH: Yes. It really was taken from the first seven years of teaching and followed the outline of my course. I am currently at work on the 3rd ed. [now out]. Having now fully made the digital transition there is much new information but I'm hoping this is the magnum opus and I won't have to revisit it again for a very long time.

THX continued to grow inside Lucasfilm. A division with excellent revenues and low overhead, the THX Sound System became the 'de facto' standard of superior theatrical presentation, and it had a profound impact on the theater industry. [...] THX remained part of Lucasfilm until 2002, when it was spun off as an independent company, owned partly by LFL, with other corporate and private investors. [...] Tom Holman began working with Audyssey Labs in 2002, a start-up company whose first product was a device that could tune professional and home theater sound.
[excerpt from Droidmaker]

MM: Ten years of '5.1 Surround Sound - Up and Running'. Where are we today?

TH: Well that book is in its 2nd ed. now called only Surround Sound -- Up and Running. We dropped the 5.1 because when it first came out the idea was new to music people, and now the idea is well understood. 5.1 remains the principal film-making format, with up-mixing in home receivers to 7.1 routinely, and newly introduced 9.1 and 11.1 channel systems.

MM: Your thoughts about Cinema Digital distribution. Toward linear PCM (no bit-rate coders) sound on a server with picture?

TH: Yes, they are 24-bit, 48 kHz, multichannel systems, so are transparent in a theatrical environment. Even those who argue for wider bandwidths have to be content with 48k sampling in large spaces because air absorption over 10m and more just does in very hf frequencies.

About Absorption
Sound may be absorbed by its interaction with boundaries of spaces, by absorptive devices such as curtains, or even by propagation through air. Absorption is caused by sound interacting with materials through which it passes in such a way that the sound energy is turned into heat.

[excerpt from Sound for Film and Television]

MM: Meaning and your progress of 10.2 channel sound at 'TMH Corporation'.

TH: I've been working on 10.2 for many years now, a system with a full path (not an upmix) from input to output because among the three competitors for bit rate, sample rate, bit depth or word length, and spatial capability it is the spatial one that is the most interesting since everyone we've exposed to the system can hear the differences across 1 to 2 to 5.1 to 10.2. There's simply no debate except "well how practical is it?" Well how "practical" is 192 kHz sampling? Who can get to 24 bits of precision, one part in about 17,000,000 in just over 5 microseconds? Nobody, that's who. Those extra bits are "marketing bits" if the truth were to be told.

MM: Marketing bits. As you wrote, is sampling at 60 kHz still enough?

TH: Yes I covered this extensively in Surround Professional magazine, taking on every single theory that has been proposed that I could find, and 60 kHz is adequate for all. 48 is pushing things a little bit. You know the 20 kHz limit of hearing is a "soft" limit, an average of thousands. As a young person I could hear an undistorted sine wave out to about 24 kHz, and we've had students who could do this in our lab confirm it in the last few years. But above about 24k there's just no response. So that leaves little wiggle room for 48k sampling, but probably enough for almost all practical purposes, certainly for cinema due to its air propagation effects.

MM: Beyond 5.1 - Height sensation, missing from all stereo and multichannel system. Is it for you unnecessary nowadays to implement in the movie industry?

TH: IMAX has had its Center Top channel for many years. I made that stereo since a width and height sensation is required I believe. In fact, Fantasound in some of its eight renditions in 1939 had some overhead channels, so it's not new, just "new" in the marketplace.

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Related Posts:


Holman, T. (2007) Surround Sound: Up and Running, Focal Press
Rubin, M. (2006) Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution, Triad Publishing Company
Blesser B. | Salter L.(2006) Spaces Speak, are You Listening?: Experiencing Aural Architecture, MIT Press
Holman, T. (2001) Sound for Film and Television, Focal Press


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