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SOUND for Outdoor Cinema

Understanding sound requirements for Outdoor Cinemas.


Your first priority when looking to hire a outdoor cinema for your event is most probably the look and size of the cinema screen on offer. Although this is a key factor you also need to consider sound which can be impossible to judge from images or a website.


The best way to ensure your outdoor cinema has good quality sound is find a supplier who understands the requirements of sound at outdoor cinemas in detail.


Sound plays a important role in the cinema experience. Without good sound your audience may miss out on important story telling if speech is not audible, or be left without emotion during a action scene if the sound has no impact.


Getting good sound at an outdoor cinemas can be difficult.


The main challenge is trying to get good coverage for a large audience spread-out in a large open space.


Outdoor Cinema with sound setup
Large open spaces create sound challenges

Cinema Sound

Dedicated indoor cinemas have multiple speakers positioned around the audience providing surround sound which is balanced and provides coverage for everyone wherever they are sat. These sound systems are carefully calibrated in a controlled environment with delay on each speaker to ensure the sound reaches everyone at the correct time and volume.


Outdoor Cinema Sound

This is not practical for outdoor cinemas due to the large open spaces that need to be covered. Speakers positioned around the outside of the large open space would require long cables to be run through the audience creating trip hazards. Multiple speakers in lots of different locations would also provide a echo and poor sound quality in large open spaces.


For this reason outdoor cinemas normally use front facing speakers only. This keeps setup simpler. Surround sound film tracks are also converted into a stereo (left & right) audio track.


The challenge then is providing a good coverage for everyone when all your speakers are positioned at the front. There is no perfect solution, however the goal is to 'project' the sound as far as possible to reach those sat towards the back whiles keeping the volume at a acceptable volume for those positioned at the front closer to the speakers.


Many setups struggle with this and those sat towards the front may find the speakers too loud and uncomfortable to listen to especially in loud action scenes, whiles those towards the back find quieter speech scenes unaidable. Films often have scenes with a large range between quiet and loud which makes the above even more challenging to get right.


Using digital mixing desks we can now help reduce the above problem by flattening out 'normalising' these quiet and loud troths. By digitally increasing the volume of speech and then reducing the loud action scenes we can create a more balanced volume throughout the film. It is however important not to flatten the volume too much as this could reduce the impact of action scenes and make the audio sound unnatural. Finding a balance is the key. Shine Cinema use this technology on all* our hire packages to help improve the audio for your guests.

*excluding our smallest 7sqm screen package.


Speaker positioning relative to the audience position is also key. Keeping some distance between the speakers and first row of guests is important. Placing the speakers as high up as possible to allow the sound to travel over the top of the first few rows of the audience can also help.


Equipment

There are lots of different speakers on the market, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. It is important your outdoor cinema provider has done their research to find a system that performs well for the unique outdoor cinema scenario.


Here at Shine Cinema all our outdoor cinema packages come with a tested sound system (PA) as standard. Each screen size is targeted at a certain size audience and the speaker system provided will suit this audience size as long as people are sat at a sensible distance from the screen and not spread out too much. The volume created by the system will provide audible speech just loud enough to overcome any surrounding ambient noise, whiles providing increased volume for actions scenes to create impact.


Our 7sqm (small), 12.5sqm (medium) and 18sqm (a little bit extra) screen packages come with point source speakers as standard. These are your normal style of speakers that are boxed shape and often seen on a tripod. They provide a loud speaker sound experience whiles keeping budget in mind.



Theatre touring sound system for outdoor cinemas
Theater Touring Speakers

Our 30sqm (large) and above screen packages come with our 'Theatre touring sound system'. This is a large sound system similar to the type you may see at music concert and designed to throw sound large distances. This system is also theatre grade providing very high quality audio especially in the frequencies of the vocal range providing clear speech at high volumes. To maximize performance of these speakers they are often flown (lifted) into the air to help project the sound. There thin profile limits their visual impact when flown either side of the video screen.




This speaker package is also available as an upgrade for our smaller screen sizes if you want to create a concert sound experience at your smaller events.



Considerations

You may think louder is better, and whiles it is important to have good volume you also need


to consider not all your guests may want booming sound. For those who do not want it too loud, such as families with young children or those with health conditions, we recommend they sit a little further back from the screen and speakers. Those who want thumping bass and big bangs can enjoy the action from the front.


You also need to consider properties, residents and those around your event who may not be directly involved. Sound pollution is often a key consideration for councils. Finding the right (acceptable) volume is essential to make your event a success and not to effect your chances of running future events. Here at Shine Cinema we can help support any applications with your council by providing onsite volume measurements if stipulated as a requirement by your council.


Tips

Here are our top tips for helping make the best sound experience at your event.

  • Encourage your guests to sit within a pre-determined area on arrival to reduce the risk of them spreading out too much.

  • Ensure there is sufficient space between your front row of guests and the speakers. Too close and the volume maybe very loud for your first few rows.

  • Use high quality DVD, Blu Rays or digital versions of your film(s). Compressed or copied films can reduce the quality of the audio which is imperfections are magnified by the large speakers.

  • Make sure your outdoor cinema provider understands the unique audio requirements of running an outdoor cinema and has the expertise required to minimise the issues highlighted above.

As a final note It is worth understanding there are lots of factors that can effect sound such as wind direction and speed which can not always be controlled and surrounding factors such as buildings that can bounce sound around.


We hope you have found this blog informative and now have a better understanding of some of the challenges in sound for outdoor cinemas and potential ways to overcome them. Shine Cinema have a wealth of experience in the sector and our outdoor cinema hire takes into consideration all of the above as standard.


www.ShineCinema.co.uk | info@ShineCinema.co.uk


All information about equipment provided by Shine Cinema is correct at the time of writing this article, and subject to change.


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