If you’re having an Oscars® party, chances are you’ve got your ballots, popcorn, and possibly a drinking game or two all planned out.
But before you settle in for an evening with Meryl and Leo, be sure you’ve set up the best possible sound experience for your guests. The Oscars ceremony is broadcast in many parts of the world in Dolby® surround sound, and a crack audio team (including Dolby employees) is working hard to make sure you can really feel like you’re there in the audience next to JLaw. But this critical Oscars party element is too often overlooked.
We asked John Loose, Senior Manager of Audio/visual Production at Dolby, to suggest some living room adjustments that can seriously enhance your Oscars party audio.
1. Seal off the room. “If you’ve got a rectangular room, and there’s a door, close it,” Loose says. “A nice, contained room is a good way to start.”
2. Rectangles beat squares. In square rooms, the walls are all the same size, which tends to send sounds bouncing unpleasantly around the party. Choose a rectangular room for your TV, if possible.
3. “Dampen” any hard surfaces. Hardwood floors and bare walls send sound waves ricocheting, creating distracting echoes. Loose suggests dampening by adding pillows, rugs, wall tapestries, and other sound-absorbent materials to your viewing room.
4. Clear the space of clutter. What might sound like a spring-cleaning chore is actually a key step in amping up your sound experience. “Get rid of all your stuff that’s buzzing,” says Loose, referring to any little knickknacks or coin-filled jars that rattle every time the bass kicks in.
5. Properly position your subwoofer. Most people don’t have their subwoofer in the right place. To find the perfect spot, Loose suggests putting your subwoofer on the couch where you normally sit, then playing the TV. Walk around the room until you’re standing in a place where the bass sounds great. “That’s where you put your subwoofer,” he says.
6. Place your speakers with care. They might look nice on the mantel, but there’s actually a science to speaker placement, and it’s best to choose physics over looks. The proper arrangement of your speakers has been helpfully decoded into this easy-to-follow formula by the Dolby team.
7. Keep guests away from the speakers. As a general rule, “you never want anyone to be too close to the speakers,” Loose says.
8. Impress guests with your geeky technical skills. To calibrate your home theater, all you need is an iPhone® or iPad® and this app. “Every receiver has a tone generator that plays out noise,” noise that can be measured with the kind of sound pressure level (SPL) meters that these apps provide digitally. The app will help you find areas where the sound is either too loud or not loud enough, and adjust your speakers accordingly.
Now you’re ready to kick back with a drink and watch the winners collect their statues. But make sure you’re serving the good stuff. As Loose points out, “good wine” also makes things sound better.