Reports in the States suggest that THX, the movie-sound company founded by George Lucas back in 1983 to optimise sound quality in cinemas, is now working on technology to do the same for our systems at home.
Using data embedded in DVDs and other formats, the system would allow the content to tell a compatible system how to set itself up to give the best-possible picture and sound quality.
Developed under the codename 'Blackbird', the system is believed to have been shown behind closed doors at CES 2007, the industry trade show in Las Vegas, at the beginning of the year. More recently the company has been talking about the technology to some journalists given a tour of THX HQ in California.
The system would use metadata embedded in the content – be it on disc, transmitted via cable or satellite or as a video game – to tell the equipment how to configure itself for the best possible presentation. Among the parameters covered are the audio reference level, surround processing and equalisation, aspect ratio and other picture settings.
The idea is that this will all be completely invisible to the consumer, who will just load a disc and enjoy the results, but clearly this requires considerable support from both hardware and software industries, which is why THX is describing the project as its most ambitious yet.
At the moment, the system is designed to carry out all this control via HDMI connections, but the company says other methods are possible, and that it will be seeking to roll out the technology through both THX certified and non-certified products. As yet, no firm date for roll-out is set, and indeed no official details have been released.
Meanwhile it's been reported that Yamaha's forthcoming RX-Z11 receiver will be the first to use THX Loudness Plus processing, which endeavours to keep low-frequency impact and subtle ambient details even when the system is run at low volume settings.
It's all a logical continuation of the work THX first set out to do when Lucas realised the subtle details of his movie soundtracks were being lost in cinemas with poor audio systems, bad acoutsics, noisy airconditioning and the like. Today there are more than 2000 THX-certified cinemas worldwide.