The Alpha Event Initiative

So while our website doesn't really show it, we've been pretty busy in the last year.  Most of our "news" has been diverted to our facebook site, however we are still hanging onto this section for our more in depth postings and projects. 

One of those new projects is the Alpha Event Initiative which kicked off with our first event: the "Super Trendy Warehouse Movie Night."  The idea behind Alpha Events is to test a new concept or some new equipment in an environment where failure is an option. Specifically, not one of our clients events. We want to make the test as realistic as possible, so for our live event solutions, we throw a live event... the added benefit is that we get to have some fun. 

So what was the point of this particular event? 

Well, we've actually learned a lot about email marketing, and we built a nifty invite-only micro-site, with a spiffy video invitation, but mostly this time we were learning about the niceties of surround sound. 

It turns out that getting blu-ray surround sound audio out into a professionally amplified public address system is actually a bit of a trick.  It involves a lot of fiddling about with the HDMI settings and a few surprising combinations of adapters, but once we had it figured out we were able to show the film in full 1080p resolution on our 16 foot wide screen with about 3500 watts of sound amplification*.  

What turned out to be more important than just de-embedding the audio from the HDMI signal was routing the sound through our Yamaha LS9 audio mixing console. What is that important one might ask? Well besides the fact that having the mixer involved let us set and balance the audio levels between the 6 surround sound channels, it also allowed us to fix the surround sound mix. It turns out that despite being marked as having a 5.1 surround sound mix on the disc case, we are pretty sure that the movie we had decided to show was originally recorded in glorious mono. They had mixed the music and a few sound effects in the surround channels, but they had left ALL of the dialog on the center channel, and there was literally nothing on the low frequency effects (sub-woofer) channel. Figures, right?

Fortunately the rig we created allowed us to spread the dialog across the front three channels of our "Theater" while still maintaining the stereo mix for the music and the surround sound mix on the sound effects. We were also able to "invent" a LFE channel by borrowing from a selection of the other channels, and then applying a low pass filter before sending it to the sub-woofers. A fun technical challenge, and a great night for a movie.


*Fine: we didn't actually turn the sound system all the way up... we would have gone deaf.