THX Demonstrates "Blackbird" Automatic System Adjustment Technology

January 11, 2007 - Modern A/V systems are so complex, it's easy to miss a setting and end up with an experience that is less than ideal. Setting aspect ratio is a perfect example. Nobody likes those pesky black bars, but between the display, the DVD player, the cable or satellite STB, some receivers, and outboard video processors in advanced systems, you can have three or more separate aspect ratio controls. If even one of them is set incorrectly, you end up with pictures stretched or squished out of shape. Wouldn't it be nice if a signal were embedded into the transmission - cable/satellite, DVD, videogame - that told your system what to do?

THX thinks so. Behind closed doors, it demonstrated a new technology with the working title "Blackbird." (The apt name is borrowed from the ultra-high-tech, Cold War-era spy plane, the SR-71.) The idea is to place metadata into the content stream during mastering that remains with the content through the entire delivery chain. When a Blackbird-enabled system recognizes the metadata, it automatically takes action, setting your system appropriately. THX demonstrated a proof-of-concept system that adjusted aspect ratio, picture parameters, audio reference level, and surround processing modes. Currently, the metadata is carried via HDMI, though THX said other delivery means were possible.

Like the spy plane, Blackbird works invisibly to the user. You can just pop in your favorite movie, concert video, or game, or just channel surf, while your components automatically adjust themselves for the perfect presentation. THX is looking for wide acceptance of this technology and will be making it available to both THX-certified and uncertified components.

On a lighter note, THX debuted its latest theatrical trailer, which will launch with the upcoming release of Shrek 3. The trailer incorporates Shrek and Donkey in a terrific way, and will definitely get the movie off to a fine start.

Finally, speaker manufacturer BG introduced the world's first THX Ultra2 certified in-wall subwoofer. Consisting of four separate modules, each containing 12 drivers, the BX-4850 - Ultra2 sounded amazing. On both music and movies, the bass was loud, deep and tight, sounding better than from many freestanding subs, let alone ones confined inside standard 2 x 4 stud walls. The 2400-watt system should be available by late spring for $4995.

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