Since the introduction of digital video capture for giant-screen productions, there have been very few technical differences between theatrical digital and giant-screen productions in the areas of audio pre-production, production, and post-production.

New soundtrack playback environments continue to evolve. Theatrically, Dolby released Dolby Atmos in 2012, a ratio-based speaker array that added ceiling and side-wall speakers. Dolby Atmos is also used in some giant-screen theaters with digital projectors. Imax Corporation recently released its IMAX nXOS2, or IMAX 12-channel system. This new format is shipped with the new IMAX laser system. It also adds a speaker array to the ceiling and side walls. There are technical differences between the two, and the sound design team will need to know them, but these new formats increase the immersiveness of the format.

The same digital cameras and audio recording gear being used on theatrical features are also used on giant-screen productions, so the same audio rules apply. Giant-screen and conventional films differ at the creative level and in methodology. The main role of the location recordist on a feature film set is to record clean sync dialogue. Collecting “wild” audio is often a luxury permitted if time and budget allow, or is left to the second-unit sound team. In recording audio for the giant screen, creating a location-based sound effects library for the sound design team is just as important as recording clean sync dialogue. Multi-channel atmospheres and specific sound effects indigenous to the scene become an invaluable building block for creating the film’s soundtrack. For example, the sound Big Ben makes as heard from Westminster Bridge is unique to that location. When the camera is there documenting fact, the audio recorder should be documenting the same fact.

As well as recording sound effects and atmospheres from each location, it is absolutely critical to include indigenous voice-over, singing, music, and voice backgrounds of all different size groups. This is one of the most difficult things to create in post production. In capturing indigenous voice-overs, it is very helpful to keep local characters and actors in their familiar environments, instead of trying to capture their natural voice and intonations in a studio during the post-production process.

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