The World War II action-drama Red Tails will be released in select theaters in Barco’s Auro-3D 11.1 surround sound. Most theaters use 5.1 or 7.1 audio, which has three speakers in front, two on the side, and two in the back. 11.1 changes that up by putting up far more speakers at various heights in order to reproduce the audio dimension of height. Since Red Tails depicts intense aerial combat, it’s an ideal candidate to test out the 11.1 system. It’s important to note that while the audio system is called “Auro-3D”, it’s only creating a 3D audio mix. Visually, Red Tails will be released in 2D only.
Hit the jump for more details about the Auro-3D system, an explanation from producer Rick McCallum on how it will function in Red Tails, and which theaters will be getting the 11.1 upgrade. Red Tails opens January 20th.
First off, here’s full diagram of a theater with 11.1 surround sound. As you can see, there are more speakers and some of them are mounted incredibly close to the ceiling.
Barco’s Brian Claypool explains what their system does differently than conventional theater surround sound:
“Auro-3D is the next logical step in sound to usher in the ultimate immersive, premium cinema experience. Auro-3D can impact a viewer’s emotional connection by expanding the 2D plane of surround sound into a fully natural 3D sound experience. By strategically placing speakers in the upper portion of the auditorium, supplementing existing 5.1 installations, Auro-3D audio adds a dimension of height. Traditional surround sound systems do not accurately reproduce the dimension of height we experience in the real world.”
So a movie with aerial dogfights is perfectly suited to use this kind of system (and I’m impressed and glad that Lucasfilm decided to use it first with Red Tails rather than the upcoming 3D re-release of The Phantom Menace).
Here’s a snippet from Steve’s interview with producer Rick McCallum where McCallum talks about the 11.1 system:
One of the things that fascinated me when reading about the movie is that you guys are doing this Auro 3D 11.1 mix. Can you talk about this mix and how it’s different from previous sound mixes?
RICK McCALLUM: Well what it does is it adds additional speakers up in the ceiling and it kind of refines the surround sound system to take advantage of, in our case, aerial combat. It’s a system that Barco is actually helping us do—we did the mix about three or four weeks ago just before Christmas in Brussels. Our sound supervisor supervised it with Barco and I think people are gonna be blown away. Unfortunately right now there’s only four cinemas in the United States, but I’m hoping by the 20th there’ll be either 12 or 13. There are certain kinds of films that this is absolutely a natural for, you know not all films, but in terms of—for us I would say sound is even more than 50% of the movie, it’s probably like 55% because we’re obsessed with it. There’s such a particular, peculiar, interesting subliminal sound to the B-51 that any pilot, anyone who loves aviation understands. In order to hear that kind of shrill whistle of the plane, you actually hear it in 11.1. That was one of the reasons, they came to us and said “Look we think we can get a couple of theaters, are you interested?” We tested it and it was just fantastic for our film.
Finally, here’s the (not yet final) list of theaters that will be getting Red Tails in Auro-3D 11.1 audio.
Regal Edwards Stadium USA Calabasas, CA
AMC Aventura 24 8 USA Miami, FL
Cinemark Plano North XD USA Dallas, TX
Moody Gardens, USA 1 USA Galveston, TX
Santikos Paladium 8 USA San Antonio, TX USA
[Correction: We've been informed by the AMC Theater in Tukwila, WA that they actually do not have the Auro-3D 11.1 sound system]
If you end up seeing Red Tails in one of these theaters, be sure to let us know what you thought about the experience.
Theaters are constantly trying to find new ways to draw patrons out of their homes and 11.1 audio seems like a great approach. It not only adds a new dimension to the theater experience, but it can’t (at least for the time being) be re-created in a home environment. And best of all, you don’t need to wear any special accessories to enjoy 11.1 audio. If it works like Claypool and McCallum says it does, then I hope more theaters will be getting this upgrade.