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70mm And Digital Sound

This article first appeared in
..in 70mm
The 70mm Newsletter

Written by: Thomas Hauerslev Issue 46 - September 1996
In the past 11 years film viewers have experienced a minimum of 8 different digital sound systems. They are: Disney EPCOT technology, FuturCinema Systems, CDS, DDP (for IMAX/IMAX Dome), L.C. Concept, DTS, SRD and SDDS.

In 1984 Glen Glenn Sound and SONY made a 65mm Super Panavision 70 demonstration short called "Digital Dream". The film was not shown with a digital soundtrack, but it was the first all-digitally recorded six-channel soundtrack. The film was produced and directed by Eric Stahl (Variety 6 June 1984).

In 1985, "Fantasia" was presented in yet another digital sound system. The Plitt Century Plaza in Los Angeles played limited engagements with off-the-shelf EPCOT time code technology through the HPS-4000 Sound speaker system.

A year later, in 1986, the film "Home of the Brave" was exhibited and advertised IN DIGITAL SOUND at the 57th Playhouse in New York. The format carried the name FuturCinema Systems.

Then, in 1990 6-track digital discrete stereo became available exclusively in 70mm. Cinema Digital Sound presented 70mm versions of the biggest box-office hits of the time: "Dick Tracy", "Edward Scissorhands", "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" and "Days of Thunder" not forgetting the 20 min CDS demonstration film "Sounds Like The Real World". They were all available in CDS 70mm.

A few years ago three digital systems, Digital Theater Systems (DTS), Dolby Spectral Recording - Digital (SRD) and Sony Dynamic Digital Sound (SDDS) appeared almost simultaneous. Almost overnight, 70mm prints became obsolete. 70mm prints with 6-track magnetic sound, which previously was an advantage over 35mm sound, was now reduced to a museum piece. Now, with high tech technology, it was possible to have CD sound quality on a standard 35mm print. The next step was to terminate the use of 70mm prints. Somewhere along the line, however, the question of picture quality was forgotten. 2 questions are essential.

More in 70mm reading:

70mm CDS Films
70mm DTS Films
What is DTS 70mm?

FuturVision 360 70mm system

Internet link:


A) Why have sound quality improved with digital technology and not image quality?

B) Why not put digital sound on 70mm prints?

 In the past years there has been a growing interest to put digital on 70mm prints again. Digital Theater Systems has developed a 70mm version of their highly respected 35mm version. The first film in the DTS 70mm process will be the restored version of "Vertigo". The shape of the future must be

A) High Impact Cinemas
B) digital sound and 
C) 65mm ultra high resolution film. Perhaps DTS is on the right track. What follows is a description of DTS 70mm.
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Updated 21-01-24