Van Duyl Gerben
David Manley was recently lucky enough to interview Gerben Van Duyl - the Director of Business Development for Consumer Content fo...
If you could start with a bit about yourself and your role in the company and then move onto the questions asked by our staff and some of our readers.
Well, I am Gerben Van Duyl and in April 2002 I joined DTS Europe as Business Development Director for Consumer Content. As such I am the official champion of DTS on DVD – and yes, it is a fantastic job to have! I built my own stereo speakers (KEF CS-3’s) when I was still in university in the Netherlands and they are still going strong in my dining room, but my living room is now equipped with 6.1 surround. Last DVD I watched: Monsters, Inc. with the kids in 5.1 DTS, and I just ordered Jim Jarmusch’ Down By Law, in glorious black & white and mono only, but nevertheless one of my favourite movies.
1. How has the rise in home theatre technology penetration changed the way DTS looks at the surround sound industry?
Hardware penetration hasn't really affected our vision because we've been driving the surround sound bus from the very start. Our mission, when we stepped into the consumer arena five years ago, was singular: deliver a higher quality surround sound experience to a global marketplace. And we've continued to advance this mission by pushing the envelope to offer new technologies like DTS-ES, DTS-Neo:6, and DTS-96/24. If anything, the growth in home cinema has proven our vision right. Our original slogan was "listen and be amazed" and we still believe in this motto, because consumers tell us they only need hear the power and quality of DTS surround sound once, and they're hooked! The hardware growth has also given us added confidence that new markets will grow to embrace surround sound, as well, so we're actively pursuing segments like in-car audio, video games, and PC.
2. How long does it take from start to finish, to complete a soundtrack for a DVD?
DTS only comes into the picture at the very end of the creation of a soundtrack. All the recording, mixing and mastering is done in the studio before any DTS technology is involved. That entire process can take anywhere from 3 days to 30 years.
Once the soundtrack is finished, it is presented to the DVD authoring company as a 6 or 7 channel master. Creating a DTS bitstream – or ‘encoding’ - from that master is really easy and quick. It is basically a real-time process, so it only takes a few hours depending on how long the movie is, using an encoder that DTS supplies to the authoring industry. [See http://www.dtsonline.com/proaudio/ for more details on DTS encoding]
3. Do you think that technology growth in the industry is dictated by hardware manufacturers and surround sound companies like Dolby, DTS, etc or by software applications?
It really is a three-way relationship between technology companies such as DTS, the Consumer Electronics (CE) manufacturers and the content providers in the movie and the music industries. When DTS launched its CE technology, there were of course no software titles available at all. However, the CE manufacturers quickly realised the quality of DTS technology and what that would mean to the home theatre experience. Today we have reached almost 100% penetration of DTS capability in DVD players and home theatre systems, down to the cheapest models, and DTS has become a de facto standard in DVD equipment. Because of the success of DTS in CE, we are now also seeing a strong increase in the available software titles with DTS, both from the movie and the music industries.
4. In the last few years, we have seen a steep rise in the amount of multi-channel formats with Dolby Pro-Logic 2, EX 6.1 & DTS ES 6.1 (and matrixed 7.1 and even 8.1 channel hardware support). How many speakers is enough in surround sound?
First of all, Dolby’s Pro-Logic and DTS’ Neo:6 are not multi-channel delivery formats, they are post-processes that take place in your AV-receiver. They take an existing mono or stereo source from vinyl, TV, CD’s, etc., and process that source so it can be played out over more speakers than just one or two. Neo:6 can derive a 5 or 6 channel effect this way, for 5.1 or 6.1 speaker set-ups (the ‘.1’ is left to bass-management to be filtered off to the subwoofer).
DTS offers multi-channel delivery formats for 5.1 and for 6.1 (which is called DTS-ES)
DTS-ES offers – in the same DTS bitstream – a matrixed Centre Surround for consumers with a 5.1 speaker set-up, and a discrete 6.1 whereby the Centre Surround is not just a matrix, but in fact a separate discrete channel, which drives a real speaker. Only DTS can do this
To date, we really have only scratched the surface with surround sound. The big step forward was the move from stereo to 5.1, which created a sound field that truly surrounds the listener. That was a watershed, as was stereo to mono. A lot of scientific research has been done over many years, and that showed that a 5.1 set-up is really the minimum required number of speakers for surround sound. The general idea is that more speakers are better, but that would certainly run up WAF resistance – (Wife Acceptance Factor :-). In the future we can expect houses that will be designed with speakers already built in to the walls and ceilings, so take your pick, how many speakers would you like? The next step after discrete 6.1 is probably height speakers, making it possible for sound to go up-and-over the listener.
5. A lot more films seem to get a DTS mix made available for the cinema release than get one present on the DVD (just check IMDB) - is it generally a cost reducing exercise that prevents these already created mixes being put onto DVD?
There are several reasons why some DVDs don’t get a DTS soundtrack. Costs savings don’t play the most important role, mostly it is a space-on-the disc issue, or a perceived value: ‘What would the consumer rather have: some more extras or a DTS?’ The good news is that more and more DVD’s do get a DTS soundtrack, as a result of growing consumer demand for high quality audio.
As an example, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2002/10/07/dvd_week_... for a quote from Universal UK, explaining their considerations for putting DTS on the Back To The Future trilogy boxset].
6. After a DTS mix has been created for a cinema release, do you have to do a lot of work to it to make it ready for the DVD release?
Time for some sobering reality: Practically every cinema release from a major studio has a DTS soundtrack, but the DTS algorithm that is used in the cinema is completely different from the one used on DVD (Coherent Acoustics). Although both produce a DTS soundtrack, they are like petrol and diesel; you can’t put the one in a car that runs on the other.
BTW: there is no such thing as a ‘DTS mix’. The studio creates a mix, or master, without any use of DTS technology or without earmarking that as specific for DTS. This generic master is then encoded, resulting in the DTS bitstream or DTS ‘soundtrack’…
7. As a company have you ever wished you had decided to create a 2 channel DTS format so that a disc could be DTS only, or would that compromise the high levels of quality DTS strive to achieve?
DTS has conscientiously focussed on creating technology that delivers the highest possible quality multi-channel surround sound to the consumer, both for movies and music. Stereo or even mono did not play a role within that effort.
8. Which film(s)/DVD(s) do DTS consider the best use of their technology? What do you think is the best DTS presentation? What do you think makes an excellent DVD soundtrack?
First of all, DTS is a delivery format for surround sound. Our technology makes it possible to bring audio to the living room of the consumer in the exact quality as it was intended by the artist or the director. Having said that: the actual artistic decisions as to what creates a good sound track are a matter of taste. Not everybody likes Sci-Fi, but some of the best DTS examples can be found in that genre. Planet of the Apes is a very good example, and U571 and Blade II come to mind. Personally I am looking forward to the Lord of the Rings Special Edition, which will have a DTS 6.1 discrete soundtrack. Great movie, and great soundtrack… And don't forget music, where the DTS sound quality advantage is clearly apparent, live concert discs such as 'Diana Krall Live in Paris' are absolutely stunning showcases both for DVD and for DTS.
9. DTS offers a considerably higher bit rate than your main competitor Dolby for the DVD market. How did you feel when you decided to compromise and create half bit rate DTS so that both DTS and Dolby Digital could be present on the same disc?
Please, never refer to our 754Kb rate as ‘half bit rate’. Our 754Kb bit rate is still a much higher rate compared to other compression technologies, but it is only a fraction of our maximum possible bit rate under Coherent Acoustics, which currently stands at 4.5 Mb! We just call it ‘754’. The first DVD done at 754 was Saving Private Ryan, which has been universally praised for its sound quality, so it seems to be doing a good job.
Currently, the maximum bit rate for a DTS bitstream is 1.5Mb, and that is what we prefer to use as it will deliver the best audio quality. But in order to facilitate the DVD authoring reality – where more and more extras have to get space on the disc – we made 754Kb bit rate available. This bit rate allows DTS to be used on projects where otherwise DTS would not fit and still delivers sound quality that is clearly superior to the alternatives.
10. It must be a lot of fun to come up with new "intros" for DVDs, which demo our product. The current one appears to be the fantastic Yamaha piano demo, however it's been around for quite a while now. Is there going to be a new demo released soon, or are you sticking with the Yamaha demo for the time being?
Yes, it is a lot of fun to make these trailers and I do believe that there is a bit of a good-spirited race between the sound format companies to come up with something really exciting every time. We are indeed working on a new trailer, with some of the biggest names in music and video art. Unfortunately I cannot give you a date as to when it will be available, but I will make sure DVDActive.com will get a preview when it is ready.
We look forward to it.
11. Deciding whether the mix you have created for a movie is good enough must be hard. Do you just have a load of people with particularly good ears in a room to rate the mix and suggest improvements, or is it a lot more scientific than that?
DTS as a technology company is not involved in the creative process itself. Our technology does guarantee that whatever the director, the sound mixers or ‘Golden Ears’ produced in the studio reaches you in exactly the way they intended it to sound.
However, our own record label – DTS Entertainment, wholly-owned by DTS Inc. – is very much involved with the creative process of multi-channel music, whereby they bring the original artists, producers and mixing engineers back into the studio to create a surround version of their original (stereo) work. They worked on DVD’s such as Queen, A Night At The Opera with Brian May and Justin Shirley-Smith, and with Graham Nash on his DVD Songs for Survivors. Creating a good surround sound mix takes first and foremost a lot of talent and experience from the producer and the mixing engineers, and then a lot of expensive equipment for them to work with. My colleagues at DTS-E have both and you can expect a lot more really good titles from them in the future.
Yes, they've sent us a few that we are in the middle of reviewing. They sound really good.
12. The first release of Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park: The Lost World boxset had a DTS mix which did not make enough use of the LFE channel. This was then remedied by re-creating the mix with a raised level of bass and shipping the newly pressed disc. Are you able to explain how this could have happened?
Sorry, I really don't know, as we were not involved with the original DVD. The revised version of Jurassic Park sounds very good indeed, and Lost World has received some glowing reviews for its DTS track, as on http://www.dvdfile.com/software/review/dvd-vide....
13. Where do you see the future of DTS in the home theatre environment?
We will be very much at the heart of the home theatre environment. The jaw-dropping ‘Wow, I cannot believe how good that sounds’ experience that many people have had, and that so many more people will experience when they first listen to a movie or music DVD using DTS, that is why we are where we are today. DTS is sometimes called ‘the artist’s company’ and we love to bring the audience that surround sound experience, just as it was intended by the artist.
By the way, you can enjoy DTS sound not just via DVD in your home theatre system, but also in your car, as part of interactive games on your Playstation 2, and via digital broadcast. Our slogan says it best: DTS, Listen and be Amazed!!
Or maybe our un-official slogan is even better: Shut up and hit Play!
Very apt, thanks very much Gerben
Editorial by Dave Manley
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