'Titanic' Composer James Horner Opens Up About Theatrical Sound Challenge

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FRANKFURT—Brightness levels, frame rates and other topics related to improving the theatrical exhibition of images have been getting a lot of attention. But Academy Award winning composer James Horner said audio presentation is additionally an issue—to a point that in some cases it can lead to creative compromises.

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In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Monday at the eDIT Filmmakers Festival, the composer of such films as Titanic and Avatar said: “The problem is that when you do a film in a 5.1 or 7.1 (Surround Sound) presentation or you rely on sounds to come out of surround speakers, the whole film presentation is relying on the theater owners’ technology."

Noting that some theaters are not equipped or maintained to accommodate the format, he said, “Consequently, filmmakers are reluctant to rely on the 200 or so prestigious theaters in the US for surround sound.

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“I’d like to be much more experimental than I have been," Horner admitted. "I’d love to have things come out around the theater discretely, sound effects people would as well. But it is such a risk to do that because in smaller theaters they don’t necessarily have that stuff working technically. If you commit, and (the speakers) are not running, the film doesn’t get presented in its best form. So you have to make some compromises in what you put into the film and how it is presented so that it plays in the majority of theaters.”

Also at the Festival, Horner shared his thoughts about the 2D-to-3D conversion of Titanic, which will be released in theatres next April.

“I’m sure it will be spectacular,” Horner said. “I have seen a couple of scenes that (James Cameron) showed me privately, a while ago, in 3D.  You feel how long the ship was.”

James Cameron's 2D-to-3D conversion of Titanic is expected to cost roughly $18 million.

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