Vibrating seats can shake up cinema profits
Levoy Haight, CTO of RedSeat, explains how and why Tremor FX wants to be the choice for dynamic seating in cinemas
Tremor FX is a technology for movie theaters that incorporates dynamic vibration into theater seats to give movie-goers an extra level of engagement in every movie.
The Tremor FX processor sends three frequency-based signals to separate actuators within the seat. Signals for ‘cinematic events’ with low frequency are sent to the seat actuator, while middle frequency ‘events’ are sent to the middle of the seat back and upper frequency ‘events’ are sent to the transducer in the upper back of each seat.
In the last year alone, US movie theaters sold an estimated $10.84 billion in tickets domestically. Even amid America’s struggling economy, this was a record-breaking number for revenue earned in a single calendar year. Americans may be cutting back in other areas, but economic struggles do not seem to be taking their toll on movie ticket sales.
While there are many factors driving this increase in sales, 3D and IMAX surcharges certainly didn’t hurt it; these new technologies are becoming a commonly accepted element of the cinematic experience.
It is no surprise, then, that companies across the nation are finding opportunities to enhance the cinematic experience. The proliferation of new products and services now offered at movie theaters across the country is unprecedented, many of which boost revenue by adding a fourth dimension to the film experience. But with each new product entering the movie marketplace, there’s a refining process that takes place as companies try to work out the kinks in their product that may take years to get right—just think how long it took 3D to go from a Disneyland gimmick to a commonplace movie theater experience.
In a world of DBOX and 4D chairs, many companies are striving to come out of this refining process on top. In order to do so, companies look for ways to deliver not only what movie-goers want, but a solution that is convenient and profitable for movie theaters as well. This win-win approach is what drove the development of RedSeat Entertainment’s Tremor FX technology.
RedSeat Entertainment began creating Tremor FX theater seat technology with a few specific goals in mind. First, after evaluating what was available and lacking in the market, the RedSeat team wanted to create an enhanced seat that could respond to virtually any type of media with a soundtrack—not just films at the theater. If the technology could respond intelligently to any soundtrack, this would eliminate the lag time between a film’s release and allow movie theaters to immediately start earning money on blockbuster films. The chairs could also be more economical for theaters if the technology was incorporated into standard-size seating, enabling theater owners to sell an equal number of tickets with or without the technology. Most importantly, RedSeat wanted to create a product that was as enjoyable, convenient and profitable as possible, without being a distraction to others in the theater.
In order to deliver this product, RedSeat focused on the components of various soundtracks and how they are put together in movies and other media. To add a sensory feeling to each soundtrack, RedSeat started developing different outputs based upon intended effects and intensity. This enabled the engineers to create a customizable chair with different levels of intensity that individuals can modify according to their preference.
RedSeat says this customization means users can expect the chairs to respond intelligently as they turn the intensity up or down; the chairs do more than simply decrease or increase in vibration. For example, if a battle takes place in a film, on the lowest intensity setting, only the biggest explosions and gunshots will be felt. As the intensity increases, however, secondary sounds and explosions can be felt in different parts of the seat, such as second-tier explosions happening farther from the main action on-screen, or single gunshots being felt in addition to their louder, more intense counterparts.
From there, Tremor FX was born as a kinetic seating system designed to enhance the movie watching experience in theaters. The system contains a proprietary, patent-pending audio processing unit, and is comprised of theater style chairs with individual controls; electronics governing the operation of the chairs; a server, DSP (digital signal processor) or wireless transmitter; and software.
How Tremor FX works
At the heart of the Tremor FX system is the digital signal processing unit, or DSP. Three actuators, or vibrating units, embedded in each theater chair (two in the seatback, one in the bottom), receive digital signals from the configured DSP that correspond to the audio signals coming from the movie soundtrack, providing a sense that viewer can also “feel” the sound. The intensity of the sensation rises and falls in cadence with the volume and modulation of the audio signal from the movie. Each seat has individual armrest controls that allow the occupant to adjust in real time the intensity of the vibration to his or her individual preference.
Tremor FX chairs are the same size as standard theater chairs, simplifying and streamlining the theater conversion process, and a modular design allows for easy upgrades and repairs to individual seats. The control box for an entire theater of seats takes up minimal space in the projection room and is smaller than a desktop computer tower. In addition, Tremor FX chairs install at a 1:1 ratio, enabling theaters to earn a premium for every Tremor FX ticket in addition to regular tickets, instead of forfeiting ticket sales because of the decreased number of theater seats.
In movie theater installation, Tremor FX chairs need to be connected to the Tremor FX server in order to receive audio and messages. This is done with a basic Cat5e cable, first coming from the server, and then into the electronic box, which controls the chairs in a daisy chain connection, eventually powering all chairs in that row. With the connection in place, the Tremor FX server performs two operations: first, it interprets the audio soundtrack and sends out a digital signal to the chairs; second, it sends and receives messages from the chairs. These messages are used to enable or disable the chairs, to read any reported errors, and to receive other information about the chair.
What Tremor FX offers movie-goers
Tremor FX technology responds directly to the audio signals embedded in the film’s existing soundtrack, eliminating the need for a separate track to program the chair to react appropriately to each new film. This means there is no lag time between when a film is released and when it can be enjoyed in the theater or at home. The Tremor FX technology sets itself apart by offering users customizable, enhanced movie experiences in chairs that respond dynamically and intelligently to any media soundtrack, without distracting others in the theater.
What Tremor FX offers theaters
Movie theaters that feature Tremor FX chairs have seen increased revenue, with some on track to receive their return on investment in nearly half the expected time. In the Dominican Republic, Caribbean Cinemas reported that Tremor FX chairs were consistently occupied twice as much as regular chairs, despite a premium upcharge.
With its affordability, convenience, and profitability, Tremor FX technology has the potential to transform the theater industry, and is already increasing revenue and enjoyment at movie theaters around the world. On one hand, those who view movies with Tremor FX appreciate that it adds a dynamic enhancement to the film without being overly intense or distracting during the movie. On the other, movie theaters with Tremor FX technology are happy it provides their customers a state-of-the-art cinematic experience without breaking the bank. Either way, the technology is offering real benefits to theaters and viewers using Tremor FX.
Progress so far…
In September Latin American theater Caribbean Cinemas announced that its Tremor FX active theater seating has helped to increase both revenue and ticket sales at its Dominican Republic-based theater. The theater’s 62 Tremor FX seats are occupied twice as much as the regular seats, which enables Caribbean Cinemas to charge a premium ticket price. This has resulted in the theater expediting the payback on the Tremor FX seats from 18 to 13 months.
THE ADVANTAGES OF TREMOR FX
- Theatre owners set their own prices: no extra fee is charged by Tremor FX.
- One-to-one chair replacement: Tremor FX seats do not take up extra room, so you will not lose extra seating.
- Easy installation and minimal power usage: Low voltage 36V DC power to each chair, two cables (AES3 and RS485), and minimal footprint.
- Personal preference: seats come in a variety of styles, fabrics, and colors.
- Use as incentives for your customers: Because theatre owners set their own cost per seat, they also have the freedom to use these upgraded chairs as incentives or giveaways with no out-ofpocket cost.
- Modular design allows for easy upgrades: other chairs on the market come as a whole system and have to be completely replaced for repairs or upgrades. Tremor FX technology allows individual pieces to be easily repaired or upgraded as needed.
- Affordable: Tremor FX chairs are able to use technology efficiently with less hardware, allowing the fi nal cost to be much lower—in fact, nearly half of other comparable chairs on the market, allowing theatre owners to begin making 100 percent profit in less than 24 months, versus 36 months with other models.
- No separate track needed: Because Tremor FX technology uses the sound waves from the soundtrack, no additional track needs to be created. This means that Tremor FX chairs can be used with any movie immediately. This same feature also means that the chairs will have the same effect with any kind of sound waves, such as concerts.