A HISTORY OF THE THX DISPLAY CALIBRATION PROGRAMME

In 1980 the world was simply stunned when “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” hit the silver screen.  However, Producer/Director George Lucas was less than enthralled by how his movie had been presented in large numbers of cinemas.  He noted that in spite of his meticulous post-production standards his movie looked and sounded differently in practically every cinema. Lucas determined to do something about this before his next film,  “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” debuted in cinemas.

Lucas hired audio scientist, Tomlinson Holman, to oversee the entire production chain, from the movie set to the end presentation in the cinemas themselves. Holman found that much work needed to be done. Many cinemas had not seen technological improvements since the Second World War resulting in a sub-standard cinematic experience. As a result Holman drew up a host of standards – all of which were then implemented in Lucasfilm’s own state-of-the-art audio facilities and cinema (Stag Theater) at the Skywalker Ranch.

Soon after, Lucasfilm began receiving requests from visiting cinema owners and Hollywood studio executives to incorporate these standards into their own cinemas and mixing rooms. Seeing the way forward, Lucas and his team created a certification programme which would monitor the application of these standards beyond Skywalker Ranch. Thus THX (named after Lucas’ first film ‘THX1138’) was born!  Today there are almost 2000 THX certified cinemas world-wide!

While filmmakers were spending millions of dollars and using new computer technology to perfect the sound and picture in the post-production studio, the quality was being lost on movie audiences,” said John Dahl, director of education and resident historian at THX Ltd. “By creating a set of standards for theater design and enforcing performance levels of presentation equipment, THX was ensuring that the film experience would translate from studios to every theater

Having revolutionised the cinema experience THX next turned its attention to the home. By the 1990s the concept of home cinema was taking off and with the advent of the video player, laser disc, DVD and the widescreen TV, consumers could watch their blockbusters in the comfort of their own armchair. THX realised, however, that no standards as yet existed so as to preserve the integrity of the movie director’s vision in the home cinema. The challenge lay in translating the cinema auditorium experience, with it’s large screen and powerful audio playback, into a front room with a TV and just a couple of surround sound speakers.

As a result, THX began to supervise the transfer of movies from film to DVD, with the distinctive THX ‘deep note’ trailer distinguishing movies that had received the THX treatment. THX also established a set of standards to regulate such aspects as the size and placement of speakers and further established a certification system for home cinema equipment. Today THX subject all manner of home cinema equipment to rigorous testing to make sure it is truly up to the job. Only after such exhaustive testing is THX certification awarded to a set of speakers, an AV receiver, a Blu-ray or DVD player etc. In 2006 THX began to certify displays, defining video quality and performance thresholds for plasma, LCD and projection HDTVs.

More recently THX created a programme for the calibration of home cinema display devices – TVs and projectors. THX recognised that every home cinema display device can benefit hugely from professional calibration so that it can display images as close to reference standards as possible. Indeed the need for such calibration was understood to be particularly acute given that practically no TV or projector is set up to display accurate images out of the box – nor can be set up accurately merely by eye.

Thus THX began to train THX Certified Video Professionals to perform calibrations of TVs and projectors in the field. THX Certified Video Professionals, such as ourselves at DisplayCalibration.co.uk, are trained to calibrate home cinema displays to THX’s exacting standards. They are also trained and equipped in the use of professional grade measuring equipment so as to get the very best from your TV or projector. Find out more about THX!

Call us now on 07988862134 to book your THX certified display calibration or email julian@displaycalibration.co.uk!