We sat down with Randolph Crowson (founder and owner of Crowson Technology) to discuss why motion technology is the next big thing for custom home theaters. In this fascinating Q&A Randolph explores why motion is an element of cinema that can still trick our brains into feeling raw emotions and how Crowson Technology uses this to bring the home theater experience to the next level. The subtle integration of motion technology into theater seating has continued to evolve while fads like 3D image have come and gone. Let’s find out why.
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What exactly is Crowson Technology?
We manufacture motion systems for home theater seats. The Crowson device is installed under the seat, expanding and contracting in time with what’s happening on the screen, causing vibrations in response to the deeper, lower bass sounds. It’s an extension of the audio that allows people to experience the world of the film more viscerally.
What kind of home theater would typically install Crowson technology?
It tends to be higher end home theaters or dedicated media rooms. Occasionally, hobbyists will mix it into a living room, but the majority of our customers are those building exceptional home theaters.
How is the motion technology installed?
It depends on the chair manufacturer. Sometimes it will replace a leg or be added in such a way that it’s still visible. Elite HTS use it differently than most. Their ethos is all about craftsmanship and going above and beyond, so they designed a way to make it discreet. The product is recessed up inside the chairs so that it’s invisible unless people get down on their hands and knees to look for it. Standard seating companies bolt it onto their chairs, which can be cause for concern. Quality wood and exceptional structure are needed to make the most of the vibrations.
Do you get people using the motion systems for anything unusual?
We’ve seen some unusual applications over the years. We first started as a dedicated motion system for home theatres, but then the engineers started calling because Crowson technology is patented. It’s now often used for reliability testing and laboratory simulations if researchers need to recreate the conditions in an aircraft, to test if their electronics can survive a flight. Our technology is accurate enough for those kinds of quality tests.
Can it really feel like an aircraft in flight?
The brain is fascinating when it comes to vibration. It tends to fill in the gaps so we can easily simulate the feeling of many things. For example, with an elevator, the brain needs the stop and start sensation along with a few other minor subtleties, and it feels as if it went up a floor. When it comes to simulating an aircraft for engineers, they tend to zero in on specific motions and recreate them.
Can the technology be used in VR?
Of course, the goal of our technology is to simulate the way things feel and add a physical dimension to the movie experience. Our technology is extremely accurate and has been used under floors to simulate different terrains in VR. As gamers navigate the VR world, we can recreate the feeling of something like a giant dinosaur walking towards them by sending giant shudders through the ground.
Do you think Crowson technology makes a movie feel more real?
Yes, motion is something our brains haven’t become accustomed to yet when it comes to watching films. We’re so used to visual and audio, and our brain knows that those elements are fake. It wasn’t always that way.
When film was first introduced to audiences, it was just short soundless clips of everyday occurrences called demonstrations. One of these clips was of a train coming straight towards the camera. It’s hard to believe looking at the footage now, but audience members were so alarmed when they could see the train coming that they tried to get out of its way.
Surround sound has only added to that experience, and motion is the next step. Although we might tell ourselves that it’s fake, people still respond to motion systems emotionally. The vibrations cause them to experience the world of a film in a whole new way. As technology develops, I imagine motion will get a dedicated track on productions, where creative people can design it to suit their vision.
Motion is the next big leap forward for film, and one of the few technologies that still causes an immediate emotional response. Heartrates quicken, sweat breaks, and it’s much more compelling than some of the fads like 3D. Our technology is capable of controlled, accurate motion that genuinely increases the intensity of the home theater experience.
How do people react when they first try the motion system?
At a demo, we tend to crank it up and use the highest settings, which usually gets the reaction of wide eyes, and a big grin from the adrenaline. We tend to use the most dramatic scenes from films with the deepest sound effects to surprise people with the intensity of the technology.
When it’s integrated into a custom home theater, we prefer to keep it tasteful and recommend people don’t go overboard. There shouldn’t be a “woah” reaction, as that distracts from the film, it should be subtle, so people feel fully immersed.
Are there ever any issues with installations?
It’s easy to install the systems. With Elite HTS seating, they fit the chairs with the device, so it comes pre-installed. But with others, it can be tricky trying to figure out where to attach it if the chair is of poor quality.
A lot of seating has metal framing and is over-cushioned; neither of these is ideal. Metal framing can rattle from the vibrations, and over-cushioning can absorb the impact. One way to test if the chair can handle the technology is to sit in it and push down on the armrests, if there’s a lot of flexibility it’s probably not going to give you the best experience.
High-quality theater seating is built with sturdy wooden frames and semi-firm foam that doesn’t get in the way of the motion systems. Instead, it picks up the subtleties in the vibration and allows viewers to sit back and feel the world of the movie unfold.
No home theater is complete without Crowson Technology. You will find Crowson 4D Theater Actuators in the finest custom home theaters in the world. Achieve unprecedented visceral impact and immersion with Crowson Tactile Motion. Transform your chair into an active home theater component that delivers sound energy, motion and vibration directly to your body. Experience 4D theater.