At CEDIA EXPO 04, THX launched its Certified Home Theater program for custom home theater installations and new residential developments. The program provides designers and system integrators with audio and visual specifications for the design of dedicated home theater rooms. For the first time, THX will afford homeowners the luxury of having a state-of-the-art THX Certified home theater environment, a level of excellence previously reserved for film industry professionals. The program will serve as an extension of the THX Certified consumer electronics and professional mixing studio programs. In an interview with Residential Systems editor, Jeremy Glowacki, THXs product line director, John Dahl, explained how the program would enable systems integrators to improve market share and revenues in a highly competitive industry.
Jeremy Glowacki: Please explain the motivation behind the THX Certified Home Theater program for custom home theater installations and new residential developments.
John Dahl: Today, consumers have plenty of choices when it comes to selecting high-performance home theater equipment, yet many home theaters fail to provide the quality of experience one would expect from such stellar hardware. At THX, we believe the home theater industry needs a performance benchmark that reflects the users experience. Since we started working in home entertainment in 1991, weve been encouraged by dealers, integrators and manufacturers to start such a program. Recent improvements in audio and video measuring equipment, and the increasing technical sophistication of residential electronic system contractors, now make it possible to set a performance standard for the users experience. Thus, its possible for an entire home theater system-room, equipment and all-to be THX Certified.
Describe the guidelines that will be used to gauge whether or not a theater is THX certified.
Everything in the roomA/V products, room design elements and furnituremust operate together to meet audio performance standards for overall output, bandwidth, linearity, noise, acoustic isolation and early decay. The room must also meet acceptable limits for seat-to-seat variation. While we allow for some variation in performance from one seat to another, the differences must be minimal. For video, the THX standards are similar to the specs used in commercial cinemas. They cover picture size, brightness, sharpness, luminance and chrominance, geometric distortion and viewer sightlines. We are ultimately concerned with the subjective experience, such as the clarity, sonic impact and intelligibility of the presentation. We also pay close attention to the usability and interoperability of the components. We want to make sure the homeowner will find the system easy to use once weve left the building. This includes setting guidelines for control logic, keystroke minimums and interface usability.
What type of cost will the designer or systems integrator need to incur to participate in this program?
Our requirements for noise control and isolation mandate sophisticated construction techniques and an attention to detail from the builder that extends well beyond standard construction practices. While specific costs may vary, the direct THX costs will be reduced if our participation is limited to reviewing and approving plan-sets and proof of performance documentation. The costs will increase if the integrator prefers us to perform the design work, system calibration and measurements. However, regardless of how we work with the client, we believe this new program offers dealers and integrators a means to drive revenue with a truly premium product offering.
Whats the best way for a designer or systems integrator to sell the idea of THX Certification to a client?
Today, market research shows that awareness of the THX brand remains strong among consumers. This is aided by the work we do in the commercial cinema, consumer electronics, games (with EA and Atari) and automotive industries, as well as our DVD mastering program, which has helped deliver some of the most successful DVD releases of all time, including the Star Wars trilogy and Pixars Finding Nemo. While consumers may not always understand the complicated details about what goes into THX certification, they know that it stands for exceptional sound and visual quality.
For designers and integrators, the key is to convince their clients that achieving an optimal home theater experience goes beyond just buying the best equipment. Having the right components is just half of the equation. The other half is how the components are placed and calibrated, and whether or not the design of the room can accurately translate video and sound using that equipment. Thats the value of THX Certification: the ability to leverage two decades of film post-production, cinema and studio design expertise to build a home theater room that will deliver the ultimate cinematic experience, one that was previously reserved for filmmakers close to the company.
Explain the THX-certified consumer electronics and professional mixing studio programs and how they tie into the residential program.
Twenty years of working in the entertainment industry, with pioneers such as George Lucas and James Cameron, has provided us great understanding of how filmmakers and other artists envision their work being presented to audiences. In THX-certified post-production studios and mixing rooms, we apply the same performance standards were now offering for the home theater program, modified slightly to distribute sound to relaxing listeners, rather than one filmmaker or editor actively working on a project. The specs include providing high levels of undistorted sound, wide bandwidth and linear response in a low-noise environment. Whats interesting to note is that our 20 years of experience has taught us that its much harder to achieve a high performance sound in every seat in a home environment than it is in a single or double seat professional space. The reason? The relatively small size of residential rooms has a tremendous impact on sound as you move from seat to seat. Therefore, the goal of the THX Certified Home Theater program is to deliver the best possible sound and visuals to every seat in the room.
What happens when a theater is certified? Does the homeowner get a plaque or certificate of accomplishment?
Yes, the homeowner gets a registered plaque that includes the THX Certified Home Theater logo.
What role will product manufacturers play in this new program?
All THX Certified Home Theaters must include THX Certified Home Theater Products where possible. In areas where there are no THX Certified Home Theater Products, we will work with the dealer/integrator to make recommendations. Not only is this is a great new opportunity for the dealer and integrators, but it also provides our CE manufacturer partners with a means to sell more THX-certified products.
Is there training required of the designers and systems integrators in this program?
THX has been providing dealer training for more than 12 years. Those dealers who have gone through the program are already aware of much of what it takes create a THX-certified theater. We are now planning an expansion of our training offerings to raise the skill levels of certified dealers, as well as bring new professionals into the THX program.
Whats the first step a designer or integrator should take to get involved with the program?
The first step is to go to our web site and read some additional information about the program. Then, if they are interested in applying, they can go to www.thx.com/chtp/. They will be contacted regarding the status of their application within two weeks of submission.