April 11, 2008
| by Marshal Rosenthal
As I see it, surround sound should provide an ambiance mimicking real life, strong enough to suck you into the movie you are watching. At its most basic, the sounds you hear shouldn’t be limited to the space in front of you. Let’s say you’re on a baseball mound uncorking a pitch; you’d hear the crack of the bat from the front, but you’d also hear the ball whizzing down the first base line. Not to mention the crowd’s cheers or boos, as well as other faint sounds. Of course surround sound is also for the in-your-face big explosions and flying debris. What the surround sound track aims to do is duplicate real life, or make an impression that can impact you physically and emotionally.
Now those looking for a more technical view at what makes surround sound tick will find many excellent articles here at Electronic House. Getting the best surround sound out of your home theater doesn’t mean just letting auto calibration do the work for you - as issues of equalization, room acoustics and other imaging aspects can and often do elude that process. That’s where a disc like DVE: HD Basics can help (Blu-ray/HD DVD). The purpose of this article is to celebrate surround as a vital cog in the home theater machine, be it musicals, action/adventure or even romantic comedies. Here’s a list of movie scenes sure to send a jolt through your surround sound system. [Note: in those cases where we talk about HD discs, similar effects can be heard through the Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS 5.1 found on the corresponding DVD]
2001: A Space Odyssey (Blu-ray/PCM 5.1) - Two scenes jump out; when the Apes discover the Monolith and Dave’s psychedelic journey leading to the film’s end.
Pride and Prejudice (HD DVD/Dolby TrueHD 5.1) - The ambiance is amazing in this film. And while perhaps more evident in scenes like that of the party, it’s just as pervasive when smaller groups (such as Liz’s family) are together. I love those countryside scenes as well.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Blu-ray/Dolby Digital Surround EX) - Where to start? Pick any scene and the action screams at you from all sides. And don’t forget the chase.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Blu-ray/PCM 5.1) - Listen to the rain at the very beginning and the discrete effects during the sword fight between the two protagonists on the “Wheel.”
BEN-HUR (DVD/Dolby Digital 5.1) - The Roman chariot race. I thought those horses were trampling through my living room.
Corpse Bride (HD DVD/Dolby Digital Plus) - An excellent atmosphere is created by the surrounds and works to form a perfect world the listener can inhabit throughout the film.
Independence Day (Blu-ray/DTS-HD 5.1) - There are plenty of scenes to choose from, but we’ll start with the death beam pummeling the skyscraper and then move over to the White House getting destroyed as well.
Blade Runner (HD DVD Collector’s Edition/Dolby TrueHD 5.1) - The Spinner (flying car) has a real presence as it travels (or hovers) due to surrounds. You can hear and feel the grittiness of the city. It seems to coat you like a dirty fog.
Cars (Blu-ray/PCM 5.1) - Race cars revving their engines, need I say more? There are plenty of distinct sounds as the cars do their racing thing.
House of Flying Daggers (Blu-ray/PCM 5.1) - While it might seem obvious, the sound separation that comes from hearing the pebbles bouncing against the drums really sends the message of what surround is all about.
Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace (DVD/Dolby Digital Surround EX) - The Pod race, obviously.
U2 Rattle and Hum (HD DVD/Dolby Digital Surround EX) - The sheer volume of the noise levels makes us remember why we stopped going to concerts - but it’s great to be back.
Transformers (HD DVD/Dolby Digital Plus) - Okay, it’s the fight scenes…whether War on robots or robot-on-robot has plenty of surround working to keep you occupied. And loud too, we especially liked the appearance of the Scorpion/Decepticon.
3:10 to Yuma (Blu-ray/PCM 7.1) - The end-run to the train is a strong climax. Guns popping, people grunting, it’s like you are in the middle of all the danger.
Blazing Saddles (HD DVD/Dolby Digital Plus) - Sitting down in the dust at the campfire with the cowboys, eating those tasty beans (hey, couldn’t resist including it).
You Tell Us
What’s your favorite surround sound scene? Comment below!
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to read Great Movie Scenes to Test Your Home Theater.