It was an ironic warm up to an immaculate cinematic sound experience: the din of a chatty Miami crowd feasting on free food and prosecco. At one end of the bar/lobby on the third floor of the Silverspot Cinema representatives from Miami-Dade County congratulated management of the newly expanded Downtown Miami multiplex. Despite officials using microphones, it was hard to hear in the echoey chamber with people gossiping about anonymous friends and a champagne flute shattering.
After the backpatting and glad-handing Thursday night, a series of demos in the newly opened Dolby Atmos Theater on the fifth floor, which features an additional seven new theaters, offered the sound isolation one expects from a movie house. There is also another new theater on the sixth floor, bringing the total number of screens at the Silverspot up to 17. The demo experience began in total darkness as the sound of a rainstorm enveloped the theater. Dan Huerta, VP of studio relations at Cinionic, which provides projectors and sound systems to the Silverspot, noted 55 speakers are employed to create the effect.
Then came images as varied as sports cars zooming across the screen and a kid gazing at fireflies in a jar outdoors. But it was all about the sound accompanying those images, from the dynamic of the whoosh of the vehicle to the sound of birds high in the tree canopy and chirp of crickets on the ground.
Jaie Laplante, the Director of Programming at Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival, was one of the night’s hosts. “It’s just a more submersive sound experience,” he says of the Atmos sound system. “I mean, you really can't tell where the sound is coming from. It’s just coming through you and all around you.”
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The speakers not only line the wall but there are also rows of them overhead, and when things get loud, the soundwaves rattle the theaters’ leather cushioning. However, there was no audible distortion, something this writer has heard at other local Dolby and IMAX theaters. Huerta says the multi-story design of Silverspot and the insulation between theaters make for one of the most pristine sounding theaters he has experienced across the nation. “The acoustics here are great. There’s no bleeding of sound from other movies, which you hear too often at other theaters,” he noted.
“Sound is as important as the picture,” notes Laplante. "A movie with great sound design can take you places that even great visuals can’t, so Atmos is an incredible experience. It’s like you’re living in a 3D experience, even if the movie isn’t 3D. The sound is so all-encompassing.”
The Miami Film Festival was the first to use this floor of theaters during this year’s festival. It’s something Laplante notes is a new phase for the festival, calling the venue the festival’s new headquarters for screenings for the foreseeable future.
“Miami Film Festival took a big risk by leaving our traditional headquarters of Regal Cinemas on Lincoln Road, where we’ve been for the last 19 years," he says. "But coming here, when we saw the theater, it really wasn’t that much of a risk because it’s got flawless projection. It’s got pristine presentation. The atmosphere is stellar. Although it was a risk on some levels, in many ways it wasn’t a risk because the venue is so beautiful. [It meets] the standard of what we want to present not only to the people of Miami but to our international guests as well.”