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Soundproofing Walls: How Movie Theaters Cut Noise

Tape Measurer on Soundproof Material

There's nothing like catching an awesome movie - complete with great sound - in a theater. You don't have to worry about waking up the baby or not being able to hear. Yet at the same time, the great sound you're hearing isn't being carried through the wall to the theater next door. What kind of design and materials are used to prevent sound transmission through the walls, floors and ceilings of theaters? Whether you're working on a commercial project or your latest home improvement, here are some things to consider to provide great soundproofing in the theater.

Design Elements

There are many design elements involved in creating a soundproof theater - many of which require significant knowledge or experience in acoustical engineering to pull off correctly. Here are a couple common design features:

Room Within a Room. This type of design element helps isolate the theater from the one next door to it. If you've ever noticed, most theaters have thick walls. This is often because they have a separate room inside of another room as their design. Why? This helps reduce sound transference between the two sets of walls.

Sound Baffles. If you look at the side walls in most theaters, there are baffles set up in the walls that reflect the sound waves into the middle and back of the theater, away from the walls. In some theaters, you'll even see this type of design in the ceiling.

Soundproofing Materials

TV Room With Sound Proofing

The other half of the equation, and the one that requires significantly less education and knowledge, is using soundproofing materials to ensure the room is isolated acoustically from any neighboring rooms.

Soundproofing Drywall. This is a type of specialty drywall that has five total layers. A strong, abrasive-resistant paper is on both sides, with soundproofing drywall material in the middle, divided by a special visoelastic polymer. Because of the additional division in the middle of the board, sound can't travel as easily through the thickness of the drywall sheet, helping deaden sound.

Soundproofing Insulation. Insulation products, by definition, dampen energy trying to pass from one side of the material to the other. Whether it's sheet foam, spray foam, cellulose or fiberglass batts or blankets. any kind of insulation will dampen sound by reducing its ability to transfer through the material. However, there are some types of insulation developed specifically to dampen sound and provide better noise isolation within a room.

Acoustical Panels. These panels tend to look like rows of peaks of softer material, such as foam. They capture sound by absorbing sound through their structure, which reflects any sound that escapes absorption back at other parts of the panel, providing another opportunity for the sound to be captured.

Draperies, Curtains and Other Decorative Noise-Dampening Material. Why did old theaters have thick, opulent curtains and draperies? Because they're the original noise-dampening system. Thick fabrics and layers of material help absorb sound while providing a decorative touch that improves your impression of the establishment as a whole.

Other Acoustical Products. These products include other foams, sprays, sound barriers and membranes that help deaden sound and prevent its transference outside of the room it's installed in. These include the putties you'll use on acoustical drywall and suspended panels that provide a reflection point away from the actual wall structure.

Floors and Ceilings. Of course, if you've taken great pains to soundproof the walls but haven't done anything with the floor and ceiling, you'll still have problems with sound control. Though both structures are part of the "room within a room" concept, they're treated somewhat differently otherwise. Carpet has a sound dampening rating that will help you determine how much sound it will absorb, while ceilings can use acoustical panels, suspended soundproofing panels and baffles effectively to control sound transference.

By keeping these design and material considerations in mind when constructing your next big project, you can ensure great sound on the inside and a quiet environment on the outside. If you need help selecting the right materials for your soundproofing project, Wallboard Supply Company has what you need. Please feel free to contact us today with any questions, to get a quote or to arrange for convenient delivery to your job site.

PS - If you need more information on how to soundproof your next project, please download our free Making Walls Quiet White Paper below.

Making Walls Quiet Whitepaper CTA

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Wallboard Supply Company is a third generation, family run business that has been serving New England's building needs since 1970. Bob Filion started the company with a commitment to provide quality drywall and finishing products with unmatched customer service. The company has grown over the years, expanding its' product range, but never wavering from its' core values.