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Standards Are behind the Curtain at the 84th Academy Awards

On Sunday night, the glitz and glamor of the silver screen will take center stage in living rooms across America as moviegoers tune in to the 84th Academy Awards to see who will take home the coveted golden statuette. This year, standards have been working behind the scenes, playing an essential supporting role for the film industry.

With this year's set of Oscar nominees spanning every decade of the last one hundred years, Sunday's ceremony puts a special spotlight on the history and art of cinema itself. Both Hugo and The Artist - the two leading contenders, with eleven and ten Oscar nominations respectively - are ardent love letters to the early days of cinema. A modern homage to Hollywood's golden age, The Artist recreates the technical details of early cinema, and was even shot at a lower frame rate to recreate the slightly sped-up look of the silent-era films. Today, moviegoers take sound for granted, but as The Artist illustrates, when talkies took first hold in the early 1930's, they were an absolute sensation.

Then, as now, the quality and fidelity of recorded sound are as important as any other aspect of cinematic art, and standards from the national and international arenas help to make the movie-going experience crystal clear. IEC 60268-4 Ed. 4.0 b:2010, Sound system equipment - Part 4: Microphones, specifies methods of measurement for the electrical impedance, sensitivity, directional response pattern, dynamic range, and external influences of sound system microphones. The standard was developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Technical Committee (TC) 100, Audio, video and multimedia systems and equipment. IEC TC 100 is chaired by David Carlton Felland of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, with the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), also an ANSI member and accredited standards developer, serving as the USNC-approved Technical Advisory Group (TAG) administrator.

Anyone who has ever been on a sound stage has heard the familiar cry, "Silence on the set!" An American National Standard from ANSI member and accredited standards developer the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) helps to assure that extraneous noise is minimized. ANSI S1.16-2000 (R2005), American National Standard Method for Measuring the Performance of Noise Discriminating and Noise Canceling Microphones, describes procedures for measuring the performance of noise discriminating and noise canceling microphones.

For all the work and artistry that goes into a film's sound design, it is extremely important that a movie audience experiences the sound as it was intended by the film's creators. Two standards developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) TC 36, Cinematography, help to do just that.

ISO 22234:2005, Cinematography -- Relative and absolute sound pressure levels for motion-picture multi-channel sound systems -- Measurement methods and levels applicable to analog photographic film audio, digital photographic film audio, and D-cinema audio, specifies measurement methods and sound pressure levels for motion-picture control rooms, review rooms, and indoor theatres. Together with ISO 2969:1987, Cinematography -- B-chain electro-acoustic response of motion-picture control rooms and indoor theatres -- Specifications and measurements, it is intended to assist in standardization of reproduction of motion-picture sound in such rooms.

As millions of movie fans tune in to see if The Artist becomes the first non-talking film to win an Oscar in 83 years, standards too, will be a silent star.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


[email protected]

Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


[email protected]