The Tech Behind the Oscars

Posted on February 20, 2015 by Amelia Ebdon

As much as we enjoy speculating about who will be winning and wearing what at the Oscars on Sunday night, there's also a lot of smart design and heavy duty tech behind the scenes that shouldn't be overlooked. Take the Dolby Theatre for example...

David Rockwell designed the theatre specifically for the Oscars in 2001. Not willing to do things by halves, the stage is one of the largest in the United States, measuring 34m wide and 18m deep, facing a daunting seating capacity of 3,332.

After battling down the red carpet and teetering up the staircase (steps have been made extra shallow to cater for heels), nominees and their special guests enter the main hall which is flanked with art deco columns bearing the names of past winners of the award for best picture. There are spaces left free until 2071 to cater for the troops of future winners.

Aside from the building itself, the sound system and cable structure are also pretty remarkable. There's an underground cable bunker that crosses underneath the theatre and is connected all the way to truck locations on nearby streets.

When Dolby took over sponsorship in 2012, it replaced the sound system and installed Dolby Atmos. This highly coveted system allows 128 audio tracks plus associated pan metadata to be distributed to the theatre, ensuring that any name mix ups and embarrassing acceptance speeches are heard loud and clear by all. By using a re-recording mixer and Pro Tools plugin to dedicate particular locations in the theatre to dynamic sounds, and by mixing sounds that aren't dynamically moving separately, in real-time playback each sound seems as though it's coming from its own designated spot. No simple process. To keep all this running smoothly, Rockwell installed a bespoke cockpit in the orchestra seating area for camera, stage and sound system management.

So yes, the Oscars are about glitz and glamour, but, between the shots of Benedict bombing into many an unsuspecting frame, we'll be giving a little virtual high five to the team down in the booth.