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THX To Extend Certification To Fixed-Pixel Video Displays

Minneapolis – Lucasfilm-spinoff THX will extend its performance-certification program to video displays while maintaining its current THX Select and Ultra2 standards for home theater audio, the company said during the CEDIA Expo.

The company also reiterated plans to certify the audio performance of videogame software.

In video displays, the company will ‘fairly quickly’ develop performance standards for fixed-pixel video-projector technologies such as DLP, LCoS, and D-ILA, said R&D director Laurie Fincham. The time is right, he said, because of the emergence of HDTV, planned high-definition videodiscs, and the proliferation of stable digital-display platforms. ‘In the old days,’ he said, THX opted not to certify performance of CRT projectors ‘because in five minutes, [the three CRT guns] could be out of convergence.’ With fixed-pixel arrays, he said, ‘the problem of convergence is not there.’

THX will focus initially on projection technologies, then move on to plasma-display certification, because the company has yet to gather an ‘information base’ about the performance of current plasma products, he said.

Before developing a display spec, marketing director Ann Brighouse added, THX will ‘survey what’s available’ to ensure the spec doesn’t ‘set the bar low.’

In video, the company already certifies DVD-Video players and prerecorded video software. In games, the company already certifies sound cards and multimedia speaker systems but not game software. A timetable for game certification wasn’t disclosed.

While it ventures into new markets, THX will maintain its current home theater audio standards, said Brighouse. ‘Select and Ultra2 are working well for the industry,’ she told TWICE. Since she joined THX more than two months ago, there have been no discussions about eliminating either of the specs, Brighouse said.

Earlier this year, following THX’s spinoff from Lucasfilm, THX acting GM Mike Hewitt told TWICE that the company would keep its THX Ultra2 and Select standards in place ‘for the time being’ while the company determined whether the industry ‘needs more or fewer’ certification standards.

In outlining its certification roadmap during CEDIA, THX also said it:

-will eventually develop specs to certify the audio performance of game machines, but ‘we’ll start with games [software] and then go to boxes,’ Brighouse said.

-won’t apply its multichannel-music standards to the DVD-Audio portion of a DVD player unless the multichannel audio can be transported to a receiver or preamp processor via a DVD-standard digital output, reducing the number of performance-degrading D/A conversions, Fincham said.

– is not making aftermarket car audio a priority, given the sonic uncertainties introduced by installation, placement within a vehicle, and the acoustics of different car models, Brighouse said. The company, however, will maintain its OEM autosound program, begun with the Lincoln.

Eventually, THX will extend its OEM car program to multichannel audio, but said Fincham, ‘I suspect stereo for the moment will be the primary format for the car.’

In another update, Brighouse said THX is still reformulating its marketing approach and that by the end of the year to early next, the industry ‘will start to see a lot of new marketing programs and marketing support.’ The company is also switching its advertising approach to highlight the benefits of THX performance standards, she added.

Fincham also promised the company would be more communicative to the industry now that it has been freed from Lucasfilm control. He cited a ‘big improvement in the quantity and quality of information on the corporate web site’ and said THX will publish more technical information to ‘show why we do what we do.’

Under the spinoff, Lucasfilm became one of several investors in its former THX division. The other investors include unnamed individuals and Creative Technology. No investor has a controlling share.