Saturday, August 05, 2006

The audience is listening

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As my wife would say, I'm "geeking pretty hard" with this entry. I was first exposed to a THX-certified cinema and the original THX trailer, called "Broadway," in 1989 at an ACT III theatre in Lynnwood, WA. THX is a quality control certification for sound recording and reproduction. As noted on

Before launching the company in 1983, THX executives decided to leverage their wealth of creative talent and resources at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Ranch to develop a promotional trailer. However, the company was looking for something that would be more than just another corporate logo flashing on the screen. "The first THX trailer had to deliver a sound and visual experience that left an impression on the audience, getting them primed for the feature presentation and making them realize that they weren't in just any typical movie theater," said John Dahl, product line director and resident historian at THX Ltd.

It was neat to work in the projection booth at a cinema with two certified screens in college. My favorite THX trailer is called "Cimarron." It's the one that starts with a conductors baton, then proceeds through warp space along red beams of light, culminating in a fly-over of the logo with the "Deep Note" sound. Here's more from Wikipedia:

"Deep Note" is the name of THX's audio logo, a distinctive synthesized crescendo sound. It was created by Dr. James "Andy" Moorer in 1982, then an employee of the Lucasfilm Computer Division. The sound is used on trailers for THX-certified movie theatres and video releases. The sound is a registered US trademark (serial number 74309951). The registration contains the following description of the sound:

"The THX logo theme consists of 30 voices over seven measures, starting in a narrow range, 200 to 400 Hz, and slowly diverting to preselected pitches encompassing three octaves. The 30 voices begin at pitches between 200 Hz and 400 Hz and arrive at pre-selected pitches spanning three octaves by the fourth measure. The highest pitch is slightly detuned while there are double the number of voices of the lowest two pitches.

Dr. Moorer has been quoted as saying, "I like to say that the THX sound is the most widely-recognized piece of computer-generated music in the world. This may or may not be true, but it sounds cool!"

You can read the full story on the sound here. You can view some of the movie trailers here.


Coppermouse Dolls said...

"Cimmaron" was awesome. My favorite THX trailer was the one with the train.

Anonymous said...

have you ever seen Lucas' student film "Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138:4EB"?

Our prof in Intro to film/video at UTA showed it to us as an example. And I'm talking about the original student film, not the feature film.