Thursday, July 1, 2010

What's Kipnis Studio Standard (KSS) all about? --- Why bother to create THE Ultimate Home or Commercial Movie Theater, anyway?

When I was a little boy, my father took me to see Walt Disney's FANTASIA (1940) at New York City's - Radio City Music Hall. This film is an unbelievably creative pastiche of different narrative and none narrative elements that combines cutting-edge hand-drawn animation with well known classical show stoppers conducted and largely produced by Leopold Stokowski - an early Audiophile, as it turns out. Because of his status as a celebrity and his love of recordings, Stokowski was able to cultivate his longtime desire to create a benchmark stereophonic soundtrack for the film, which took complete advantage of every technological innovation available to him at the time. His work in the early 1930's with Bell Telephone Labs produced the first Stereophonic recordings of orchestral music in the world, and pioneered much of the recording and playback equipment that would predict our modern 5.1 Surround Sound Standard. It is his tireless work with Bell Labs and Walt Disney that made this film the tour de force of cinema for nearly 50 years, and beyond!

Because I came from a family background that included three generations of musicians and performers, and each one of them embraced photography and movies as a serious part of their work I became aware of the mechanism of film and photography very early on. And from what I recall, the presentation I experienced of FANTASIA that afternoon was simply astounding - leaving a life-long impression! First, it featured a fresh 35mm print (which was explained to me by the projectionist, after the show), accompanied by an eight channel soundtrack that surrounded the audience, completely and believably. It was like being in the movie! When it was over, whatever little bit of me there was would never be the same, again! What transpired that afternoon was a transention of the human condition, call it spiritual or transedental if you like, but a profound, life changing event occurred that would forever shape my life and work. That event was a combination of all that represents the very best and the true essence of great cinema and live music performance:

1. The presentation was HUGE!!! Immense!!! And the picture was BRIGHT as daylight. Yet it also included inky jet blacks which still contained visible detail while also displaying incredible color fidelity and range of hues - saturations that made these images appear to be real, or even supra-realistic.

2. The audio quality was clear and precisely layered in three-dimensional holographic space --- all around me. There were deep bass fundamentals --- 32 Hz as I would later come to understand, from my lucky encounter with Stokowski, HIMSELF at one of my father's recording sessions for Vanguard Records. This bass shook my chest, yet continued seamlessly and continuously in an unbroken manner up until the very top of the treble (15 kHz). Loud sections played back faithfully with respect to the size and disposition of The Philadelphia Orchestra (as I heard live in concert, shortly thereafter) but soft passages preserved the intimacy associated with solo instrumental moments of winds and brass which are sometimes heard overlaid on a velvety background of dulcet strings. There was an unbelievable sense immediacy and emotional intimacy which produced a sense of limitlessness --- that the sound could and did go on, forever --- both physically and volumetrically.

3. The architecture of the main hall at Radio City is quite simply a work of art, and on so many different levels. First, it is a brilliant design of Art Deco origin, capable of seating 6004 people, each of whom are supposed to experience an optimal performance - whether live or on film. Second, the architectural design and choice of materials along with specific construction techniques affords optimal acoustics for both types events, giving the venue a multi-media capability far in advance of modern multi-channel digital entertainment. Third, coming into this building, one is immediately struck by a sense of occasion which focuses attention acutely on the grandeur of the place, the setting, the time, and the incredible nature of the performances about to be appreciated there. It is entirely tangible and palpable!

Whereas most great movie theaters of the late 1960's & early 1970's were quickly becoming either parking garages or early multiplexes --- created by subdividing one big screen into many smaller, poorly set-up and modified theaters --- Radio City Music Hall remains a hallmark of great human design and engineering to this day, particularly with respect to the art and science of presenting cinema and live performances, properly. These factors and characteristics have appeared to me illusively around the world at different times and in different places, these last 41 years. When I have come across it (the right combination of ingredients for the perfect cinema experience), I have breathed it in like the life's breath that sustains us all. But in it's absence (which has been frequent) I have always striven to recreate it as best as possible. The goal was a larger than life, sharper, and more immediately tangible presentation quality than could be found reliably, even in such rare locations around the world.

During the journey, an interesting effect became apparent: it occurs in human beings when they are presented with the above quality presentation parameters along with something interesting to watch and listen to. There is a physiological response that is triggered through the optimal experience of both visual and aural stimulation which creates illusory or hypnotic levels of consciousness. The precise accuracy of the image and sound quality determine the degree of the illusion, and the physiological response occurs on an involuntary and even subliminal level. The result is that one feels like they are IN the presentation! And this results in what I term "Active Viewer Participation".

How to create this visceral effect on demand (other than attending a huge screening event at an incredible performance venue which also features incredibly life-like fidelity, IF you are lucky enough) has been my creative journey now for over four decades. And in that time, it has occurred to me that these presentation standards are not just good for movies (like Star Wars & Ghandi), but also for television (like Star Trek & LOST), video games (like HALO & EA Madden Sports), and even listening to music albums (by Bach or the Beatles) on their own. In fact, experiencing any type of audio and video media that you might imagine under what has evolved into the Kipnis Studio presentation Standard (KSS) offers the closest experience to that of a time machine or portal through time: it brings you (the remote viewer) the varied experience of people, places, and things from a "First Person Perspective" (FPP) --- patent pending --- catapulting your emotions backward (and forward) through time and space to the moment of their actual existence!

Imagine THAT the next time you watch your favorite TV SHOW or MOVIE . . .

Cheers -


Written on the Kipnis Studio Standard (KSS) - iPad Interface



  1. If it was before 1982, it was a magnetic (4-channel) 35mm release print, unless Disney struck 6 track mag 70mm prints for that release, (for we'll forget the 1982 Dolby Stereo optical release with the entire soundtrack was re-recorded with the CSO and Levine and the removal of the narrative of Deems Taylor, for that ruined the entire film for that release year), where in 1990, the restored 50th anniversary releases, that returned the original soundtrack, were in optical stereo on a nationwide basis, but I do believe that, once again, there were 70mm magnetic releases on a limited basis for large venue areas (why it sounded so good..), but an excellent remastering was done on this.

  2. ..forgot to add: I do have an vinyl LP album released by Bell Labratories of these early stereo releases by Stokowski with the Phil Orchestra that describes how the technique was done, even though Bell wasn't planning on doing any marketing with these recordings, but for experimental testing purposes.

  3. Here are some links for all to read about Fantasound to support the story above when Jeremy went to RCMH to witness "Fantasia"

  4. Thanks, Monte, for getting to the heart of the sound presentation quality issues. Clearly, FANTASIA was a benchmark film in all ways, and has continued to tantalize generation after generation with it's landmark qualities. And the sound presentation (as you correctly point out) is a direct result of defining an entirely new method of audio capture and playback using three channels behind the screen instead of just one the one that would exist both before and after 1941 roadshow openings:


    A little movie sound history is in order:

  5. Other than some isolated special instances, movies had no soundtrack or spoken dialog in general until 1926, when Warner Brothers pioneered and introduced VITAPHONE - their trademarked and patented method of synchronizing a shalack disk and a movie projector - something Thomas Edison had designed and patented with the Cylinder Phonograph as early aa 1889.

    And from 1926 forward, therre have been relatively few ( really only a handful) of improvements made in the last 84 years!

  6. Here are two newspaper announcements concerning the introduction of sound to movies in 1926: