Since 1983, THX has been a force in helping bring great entertainment experiences to life – whether it be in the production studio, the cinema, the home or on the road. With 28 years and counting, THX celebrates some of the ways it has been a part of shaping audio and video performance as we know it.
The first project George Lucas gave to THX co-founder Tomlinson Holman was the design of mix C for Sprocket Systems, now known as Skywalker Sound at Industrial Light and Magic. This room design soon became the inspiration for the THX Certified cinema and studio programs, with Skywalker Ranch being among the first rooms to be built to THX performance standards.
When it came to the post production facility, THX took a top down approach, developing performance criteria that impacted everything from the room layout and acoustic performance, to loudspeakers and audio electronics. Today the Ranch is still considered one of the best audio postproduction facilities in the world. Standards created by THX are used today throughout the movie making industry.
By creating a certification for cinemas, THX raised the bar for cinema quality. This fundamentally changed how theaters were designed, and resulted in far better quality movie presentations. From better sound, to a bigger, better, brighter picture, to less noise from the outside world, THX Certified Cinemas are the ultimate movie-going experence.
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Before THX, most cinemas used loudspeakers hadn’t been updated since the 1940’s. These speakers were designed for high-output with limited power and only had to reproduce soundtracks with a limited frequency response and dynamic range. Working with select loudspeaker manufacturers, THX developed a new design for speakers with extended frequency response, flatter power response and lower distortion. The result was loudspeakers that accurately reproduced all the elements of a motion picture soundtrack while guaranteeing a quality experience at every seat in the house.
George Lucas has continued to push the boundaries of technologies in cinemas and was the first director to release a motion picture digitally. Lucas turned to the experts at THX to help prepare, and then master, Star Wars Episode I for digital cinema projection. Additionally, THX oversaw the installation of the very first digital projectors in cinemas. Since then digital cinema has taken off, with over 15,000 screens worldwide.
Starting with Technics in 1991, THX has pushed the consumer electronics industry to create better and better audio products. Today, receivers, speakers, acoustic treatments and more are certified by THX, ensuring the highest level of performance.
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In the early days of LaserDisc, content mastering was done in the analog domain. Simple calibration errors during this process could lead to sub-standard disc content. THX’s LaserDisc program helped develop techniques to control how motion picture content was prepared for the home. This evolved into similar techniques for VHS, DVD and now Blu-Ray.
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Together with Dolby, THX helped break the 5.1 barrier and developed a technology to add a back surround channel for cinemas and the home. Surround EX provided film makers with the ability to create soundtracks with greater audience envelopment and an improved ability to steer sounds around the listener. The back surround channel in a Surround EX mix is matrix encoded into the left and right surround channels making the format backwards compatible with all 5.1 systems. Surround EX became, and still is, the most successful product launch in cinema sound history.
Before THX started training custom installers in 1992, there was little consensus about how to build a home audio system for movie soundtracks. Often this resulted in very expensive “home theaters” which bore little resemblance to the sound crafted by the movie’s creators. Poor center channel speaker quality, when there was one, often led to complaints that the homeowner couldn’t understand the dialog. THX taught the world the importance of a center channel that’s identical to the left and right speakers, in addition to the value of speaker placement and aiming.
Today, these techniques and many more, along with how to setup and calibrate a home theater system, are taught in THX Home Theater Professional Workshops.
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A common misconception has always been that THX only addresses the audio portion of the entertainment experience. When, in actuality, since its inception, THX has been dedicated to delivering quality sound and picture to audiences around the globe. In 1994, THX Certified the Runco LJR II Laser Disc Player, the first in a long line of excellent THX Certified video products for the home. Rigorous standards, equal to those created for THX Audio certification, push the performance of the entire video world. Today, DVD, Blu-ray players, 2D & 3D flat panel TVs and video projectors are THX Certified to perform among the best in their class.
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The 2002 Lincoln LS was the first car audio system certified by THX. The high quality sound was a revolution in car audio, and now nearly all high-end cars have advanced and elaborate systems.
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