Artistic Intent and the Role of the Integrator

Ian Bryant, Technical Consultant | Dec 27, 2022

Walt_Zerbe_podcast_solo_cropWhat does artistic or creative intent mean, especially in the technology integration industry? Films and music are engineered by highly educated professionals. These engineers, artists, producers, cinematographers, directors, and other crew members have intentions for their work no matter the format.  

On a recent CEDIA podcast, Peter Aylett, Partner at Officina Acustica, poses the question about what our job is as an industry. His answer is definitely food for thought:  

“Our job as the CEDIA community is to take content and reproduce it as well as we possibly can. When we say well, we mean is as close as possible to the intent of the content creator, artists, and group of people who have a vision of what we’re going to consume.”  

Objective or Subjective? 

Art, including the visual and performing arts, are both objective and subjective. This is a very old and passionate argument that changes perspectives even between art forms.  

The world-famous Eden Gallery defines subjective art as “art that is created by the artist themself. The art is made based on personal feelings and emotions felt when creating it.” Having the emotional draw, subjective art that’s is unique to each person’s expressions of themselves and has been around for quite some time. 

On the other hand, objective art is “created to be seen and interpreted by an individual. It can express certain feelings or thoughts that are not easily said or shown in words.” A couple of common examples include canvas paintings and sculptures.  

Film takes the debate to a new level through character point of view. When a filmmaker chooses to show a specific perspective, that point of view becomes subjective to the character because the character wants the audience to see something specific. On the other hand, there’s an inherent objective experience in music and performing arts because of the fact that it’s being produced. Each production requires a highly strategic consideration of how an audience will experience the art.  

Creators often have both subjective and objective intentions in their creations, but the interpretation of art is a subjective experience. Even though you might have a similar feeling or experience as the person next to you, your perspective and viewpoint will always make it a unique experience.  

Geoff Meads, owner of Presto Web Designs and longtime CEDIA volunteer, explains that “the recording environment, be it video/audio/music, is not an objective thing. It’s very much subjective. Some of the best and most well-regarded instruments and microphones are far from perfect, and they create a piece of art that’s really there to generate an emotion. If you feel the kind of feeling that was obviously intended, that’s the best we can probably do.” 

Technology & Education 

As technology integrators, our role is to provide a system that can reproduce content at all levels of production value in the best way possible.  

“We don’t know what the director’s intent was, but we have a very good understanding of the technical requirements of the room it was mixed in. RP22 is going to help us deliver those recommended practices in our industry,” says Bespoke Cinemas Owner Adam Pelz.  

Specifying objective technical criteria that defines the level of experience in terms of artistic intent is central to the recommended practices CEDIA is developing related to private entertainment space design. Poppy Crum, former Chief Scientist at Dolby Labs, explains that “standards ensure consistency of experience.” 

Objective criteria and the accompanying recommendations on how to achieve them allow installers to ensure the promised client experience is delivered in an objective and measurable way. When we all embrace a common engineering-based language to describe performance, we move forward as an industry and become true professionals. 

One of the most important reasons to learn and move away from “being “glorified retailers of expensive boxes,” is so that “we can be more objective about what it is we’re trying to achieve,” Aylett notes. When we approach projects as an engineer, we take a logical and objective approach rather than “throwing expensive kits at it and hoping for the best.”  

Even though there’s heavy discussion on the RP22 standard, video is also a strong focus. RP23 will be the next CEDIA/CTA standard to be released. In the meantime, there are many classes to take on the video side. I spoke with Joel Silver, President and Founder of the Imaging Science Foundation who was wrapping up a class with a group of post-production video engineers. He was teaching the same class to these students as he teaches to integrators, the only difference is the displays he uses. These engineers were taking his class to preserve the artists’ intent for the product they work on.  

Client Discovery 

Over the years, the CEDIA channel has started to understand the importance and necessity of proper and thorough client discovery. Well thought out client discovery conversations can help develop an understanding of how important art is for your customer. It also gives you an opportunity to educate and inform your client about possibilities they may not know about.  

Paradise Theater President Sam Cavitt says, “I think we always have to keep our ears open. We have to make it personal to the client. There’s no trickery to this - it’s all about communication and seeing what the opportunities are to create something extraordinary for them.” When we work with clients, we’re on a journey, not in a race to get the job done. 

The integrator channel is maturing into a trade that provides experiences to the consumer through technology and art which truly separates us from the other trades. We should take responsibility to provide the best possible experiences for our customers. In doing so, we’ll preserve the artists’ intent that our technology systems reproduce through film, music, and art.  

Stay tuned to CEDIA for the release of the CEDIA/CTA-RP22 standard and to learn even more, register for the RP22 workshop at ISE 2023.