In-depth: Datasat Digital Entertainment sound tour

posted on Sunday, 8th December 2013 by David Slater

home cinema  Datasat 

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It' s not that often in life that a childhood dream comes true, but one of mine did recently when I took a call from Datasat, inviting me to visit its business HQ in Tywford.  For years I've always secretly wanted to look behind the glass panel of the projection booth; my dream came true on the tour.

Datasat Digital Entertainment, for those not in the know, was formerly known as DTS Digital Cinema, and as such has roots that stretch back to the very start of surround sound. In 1993, utilising funding provided principally by Universal Studios, director Steven Spielberg backed the fledging multi-channel digital sound format with a little home movie called Jurassic Park. As a result, DTS playback systems were installed worldwide and cinema sound was changed forever.

Datasat cinema history
From the outside, the Datasat building looks like any other industrial unit, but housed behind the front door is 25 years of cinema sound history. My host for the day was Daniel Gray, vice president consumer sales at Datasat, who was just bursting with enthusiasm about his product. The first suite I was ushered into was where sound engineers would listen to soundtracks without any picture, a technique used to highlight any problems without the detractions of visuals. The Datasat UK base has long been used to oversee subtitling, audio descriptions and non-English language dubs of multitudes of movies.

Nearby I found a pre-digital 35mm projector. According to Daniel, a movie like Titanic would come on as many as 10 reels, offering no small challenge to projectionists of the era. In the days of analogue distribution, there were big differences between rival Dolby Digital and DTS sound formats. Dolby would typically encode its audio on the spaces between the sprockets on a reel of film, whereas DTS soundtracks were encoded on CDs that synched the data via a device bolted to the projector. Using CDs allowed for less compression of the sound and greater fidelity, which probably explained why I always preferred movie sound in the DTS equipped theatres.

One real treat was the chance to visit Datasat's 36-seat private cinema room, complete with digital projector and Datasat cinema-grade sound system. This professional theatre sounded truly amazing, I was just blown away by how focused the audio was. Of course today, movies are distributed on hard disks which are inserted into the hardware rack. These disks are then setup with a license for a limited number of viewings, which would then expire. Digital technology has made a massive difference to the cinematic experience. Pictures are crisper, there is never any degradation in the stock and films cost a lot less to distribute.

Next up on my tour I visited a suite where master audio disks would be duplicated in mass. This was adjacent to the warehouse which had a walkway to a security coded room dubbed The Vault. Here you'll find all the original soundtrack disks that Datasat /DTS have ever encoded, truly cinematic history.

Datasat delivers
If you have an opportunity to visit the Datasat Digital Entertainment facility, you should jump at it. Dedicated home cinema installers will just love the tour, and the knowledge these guys have is just truly amazing. It's also a brilliant backgrounder on Datasat's astonishing cinema sound legacy.

Datasat processors have long set the pace in the theatrical world, and now the brand is looking to do the same with its debut home cinema processor, the astonishing RS20i. The RS20i transpires to be a derivation of the professional AP20, and boasts genuine big screen DNA. The company is also working closely with Barco and Auro Technologies multichannel multi-height surround sound, developing both theatrical playback devices and a board for the RS20i, which will make its debut at ISE 2014.  I suspect all visitors will leave converted as to its benefits. Unsurprisingly I'm now saving my pennies to get one of these babies for my own home cinema setup! 

Also read:
Datasat to premiere Auro-3D RS20i processor at ISE 2014

Auro 3D partners with Datasat for home debut

David Slater

David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a
popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
Living North

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Posted by vince mcatamney on 20th January 2014, 9:17 AM
I visited last summer. A very, very impressive, and worthwhile day for anyone claiming to know 'Cinema'. The 'Hollywood Handover' allowing authorized user Cinemas access to latest releases synchronised with the box office... that's cool! This has changed the way I work, design and think regarding new business. Go there...... NOW!

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