Cinewav replaces expensive, heavy, manpower intensive audio systems or FM transmitters or broadcasting at outdoor cinemas, with a phone-based app. Users can simply watch on a big screen and listen on their phone via a small, downloaded audio file that is synced with the images on screen. Users need the Cinewav app and their headphones, while event holders need the Cinewav player on a laptop.
The app is the brainchild of Jason Chan and Christian Lee, who via their BananaMana Films had made hit film “Jimami Tofu.” It is during the distribution process of the film that Chan and Lee realized that the sound they had painstakingly mixed did not always have the desired effect on audiences, particularly at outdoor screenings.
“When we were in theaters, we weren’t necessarily happy with all the theatrical sound because theaters are balanced differently based on different hall sizes. And then we realised most audience members don’t sit in the sweet spot right in the middle, where we want them to be. And then we thought, what if we could create a technology where everyone gets the same mix that we mixed, no matter where they sit, and this applies for outdoor screenings, as well,” Chan told Variety.
Chan and Lee also realized during the “Jimami Tofu” release process that for many screenings they laid on independently, a convenient app would obviate the need for expensive audio equipment and convey virtually any space into a cinema. They developed the technology themselves with a team and the process was funded to the tune of $500,000 by angel investors.
The app has secured the approval of major U.S. studios including Disney and its brands and Sony Pictures to use their IP.
“Disney was the first studio that allowed us to play their films through our system. And what we had to do is make sure that our encryption and security systems were all Hollywood grade. Obviously, they’re always worried about piracy – the great thing about Cinewav, though, is that the film lives in one point of contact, which is the master player that’s handled by the event company, you’re not streaming out to all these devices. We’re actually less risky than most OTT out there,” Chan said.
Cinewav is now talking to some studios in Malaysia to get their content libraries on the platform and also create instant cinemas at small town and village spaces across Southeast Asia using their now patented audio technology.
“Now we can bring cinema to the people, we can find a white wall, and in a village, we can have village cinema or community cinema, but still deliver what filmmakers expect, which is the high quality audio immersive experience and a big screen shared experience, which is what we really focus on,” Chan said.
Meanwhile, the plan is to realize their dream of building the world’s largest cinema, seating some 30-40,000 people at Singapore’s Marina Bay. Cinewav ran a season of outdoor screenings at Marina Bay over the past summer and the plan is to scale up.
“The thing that stopped people in the past is audio, you can’t scale audio like that, when you get to, 500-600 people, you start to get echo delay. But now we’re able to do that. And, you know, with some of the headsets that people have nowadays, which just kids have nowadays, they’re so good that they’re coming up to us and saying ‘that was better than cinema quality sound.’ And we said yes, because ‘we’re bringing sound closer to your ears’,” Chan said.