Symphonic Zeppelin and Queen

January 30, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Posted in Concert, Photography, Review, Rock, Symphony, Theater/Theatre | Leave a comment
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Another night using the light rail to get downtown to Dodge Theatre has passed. This time it was to check out the music of Led Zeppelin and Queen with a full rock band and the Phoenix Symphony.

Stairway Symphony

The show was pretty amazing.  Symphonic rock bands are nothing new, but it’s always nice to go see and hear a symphony without having to get all dressed up beforehand.

I’m not sure why this is at Dodge and not Symphony Hall, but since I have season tickets to Dodge it worked out well for me. As well as can be expected without the orchestra in a proper pit anyhow. It’s really difficult to capture the nuances of an orchestra when a lot of their sounds are being sucked up by stage curtains and overshadowed by a lead guitarist. Don’t get me wrong, the guitarist was very good and has obviously spent a lot of time recreating the exact tones of Jimmy and Brian but last night’s performance was a little harsh on the ears in the high-mid frequencies. Not sure whether I should blame the player or the sound engineer there. Either could have alleviated that problem.

Conductor Brent Havens did a great job, considering he is touring around and working with a different group of musicians each day. He was also kind enough to step aside at one point and let an audience member come up and conduct a song! Her name was Morgan, and she did a pretty awesome job for an amateur maestro, so props to her.

The show is divided into two parts. The music of Queen and then Zepp after an intermission. All the players remain the same except for the lead singers.  Randy Jackson does Zeppelin and Brody Dolyniuk fronts the Queen portion of the show. At one point electric violinist, Allegra,  joins in on the fun. Powell Randolph, drummer, even pounds the skins bare-handed Bonham-style during the obligatory Zeppelin drum solo.

Phoenix Symphony Does QueenLighting and sound were minimal, but adequate. They tossed in some good effects from the movable lights, and did some nice guitar panning during key points of guitarist George Cintron’s shining moments.  The audience even showed its knowledge of symphony protocol by providing standing ovations a few times, and remaining seated the rest of the time. Of course, we all stomped and clapped along at the appropriate times and a few even brandished lighters, not cellphones, during the last song. That was a welcome sight. All in all – it was a pretty good show and I’ll definitely check it out when it tours again.

A Multi-Channel Audio Primer – Are You Listening?

January 20, 2010 at 2:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This is gonna be an acronym-fest. I’m sorry.  I’ll break this in a copule of paragraphs, you can follow the link if you want to learn something about what you are hearing or what your buttons on the A/V receiver remote actually do.

Multi-channel audio is a product of the movies. Although there are a couple of examples where it applies to music, its main purpose is to enhance movies. If you are concerned with perfect imaging of orchestral music or being able to place Phil Collins’ snare drum while listening to headphones…this is not the article you are looking for. Move along.

So, are you ready for a quick primer on home and theater sound system differences. Dolby vs THX? SDDS vs DTS? Then follow me… Continue Reading A Multi-Channel Audio Primer – Are You Listening?…

Modern 3D Formats – What’s the Difference?

January 20, 2010 at 1:00 am | Posted in Movies, Photography, Theater/Theatre | 1 Comment
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Let’s get one thing straight right from the start. I’m talking about modern 3d Cinema here, not the old-school stuff with the different colored lenses, nor some DVD you are trying to watch on your home television.

Modern 3d, a la Avatar, is done with a little more finesse nowadays. 3D nowadays is usually done with polarized lenses, not colored jobbies. Yes, polarized, like a camera filter or those cool fishing glasses that let you see into the water. Same idea. Every company has a slightly different take on it…this is how patent lawyers stay in business.

The differences are in the details.

Real-D uses a circular polarization. That gives the benefit of being able to maintain the third-dimension illusion if you tilt your head. It’s digital. It uses one projector.  Movies can be transmitted to the theater, or sent on esy to transport and store materials. That means its relatively cheap to upgrade a theater to incorporate. It also means that a theater must use a silver screen (as opposed to current tradition of white) for the best effect, otherwise too much light gets lost and the movie gets dark. The big advantage to us is: it’s sharp. No dust bunnies on the film, as there is no film. The disadvantage is, its just a bit higher resolution than your HDTV and its way bigger.

Traditional IMAX…uses really big film. 70mm film, but it is shown sideways as opposed to vertical, so it has a massive area. It is 15 perforations wide, as opposed to the 5-wide it would be if it was vertical. See…BIG. That means BIG Screens (5 or more stories high and 7 or more stories wide). That also means big equipment like forklifts and specially trained personnel to work all the fancy gizmos in the projection booth. Of course, that means big overhead expenses – hence big ticket prices. Disadvantages to the audience, besides high prices,  are: you can’t tilt your head and maintain the illusion. If your theater uses fancy electronic shutter glasses (not sure any still do) they are bulky (although cool from a techie standpoint). Seating is different than what you are used to. Your ankle will be at the level of the head in front of you…steep seating angles, a disadvantage if you are in a wheelchair or are mobility impaired. The advantage of IMAX? It’s BIG. It has totally awesome uncompressed audio tracks pumped thru massive multi-channel surround systems. Totally immersive.  It’s on film. Resolution is NOT a problem.

Multiplex IMAX (referred to by some as minimax or LieMax) is a  new creation. Some are digital, some are true IMAX film. The system is designed to retrofit multiplex and mall theatres.  The screens are NOT massive like traditional IMAX. The seating is somewhere between your normal theater and the highly-raked traditional IMAX. The price is probably more than a competing 3D format across the hall, maybe as much as a traditional IMAX. If its a digital IMAX, it will use 2 projectors, rather than one. This may be brighter than the competitors in theory, but has some drawbacks in actual practice if things aren’t “just so”. Still can’t tilt your head, due to the linear polarized glasses IMAX likes so much.

Dolby 3D: Similar in concept to REAL-D, with some minor technical differences…you can look up more details yourself if you really care to. Keep this in mind…Dolby likes to patent processes. They have a certain way of doing things. Those things have a way of sticking for the long haul. Tape recorders ended up with Dolby C and/or B, your A/V receivers at home have Dolby Pro Logic or Dolby Digital, or those plus Dolby-“whatever”. They become the standard in a lot of media applications! James Cameron used this 3D format at the Avatar world premier (although tweaked a bit from what you might find at your local multiplex). ‘Nuff said.

Xpand 3D: Don’t know what to say here. Haven’t seen it. The Hollywood Arclight Dome (a favorite amongst movie buffs) is using it for Avatar with mixed reviews. Not sure how astute or trustworthy those reviewers are. Word has it that Disney, PIXAR and ILM have this sytem in their screening rooms. I wouldn’t count these guys out just yet. I’m sure Lucas is working on a way to try to one-up Cameron…so…keep your eyes on these guys. Keep in mind that REAL-D has an immense foothold on the majority of current theatres…but that’s not to say that this one won’t sneak into some “premier” locations…heck its going thru a trial by fire at the Dome as we speak.

Digital 3d: Anybody’s guess as to what’s driving this generic stuff. One local theatre chain here is using all-digital Barco projection equipment that is getting rave reviews and the theatre tells me the 3D system there is made by Imagemaster. Seems to be a REAL-D-like system made by a small upstart company and is cheaper than any of the “big names”.

So, now that you have a primer…go see Avatar, again. See it differently than you saw it last time. Back in the day Lucas marketed THX with “The Audience Is Listening”…well…when it comes to 3D formats nowadays, the Difference is in the Details. The levels of brightness and immersiveness are something you have to experience for yourself. I personally love traditional IMAX with its ultra big, ultra bright film, ultra-enveloping-sound but I really enjoyed the way REAL-D drew me into the film, rather than thrust it out at me.

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