For the Oscars, theater gets a tech upgrade

When viewers tune into the Academy Awards Sunday, they can be forgiven for thinking the swelling music is coming from an orchestra hidden somewhere inside the 3,400-seat Dolby Theatre. The truth is a little less glamorous - they are a mile away, playing live at Capitol Records.

The sound is then piped through fiber optic cables back to the theater - in only 2.7 milliseconds.

"We just keep trying to get that latency down as close to zero, so that performers can hear exactly what the orchestra's doing and the orchestra can respond," Paul Sandweiss, the audio director of the Academy Awards, told CNET's Kara Tsuboi.

It's just one part of a massive makeover the movie theater and tourist attraction is getting ahead of the season's top awards ceremony.

Crews roll out 500 feet of red carpet for the stars to walk on, but that's nothing compared to the miles and miles of cable needed for the broadcast. Much of it is plugged into trucks at the so-called broadcast compound right outside the theater.

"Everything that goes over the air is done in these two trucks behind us," said Steve Venezia, Worldwide Senior Director for Content Services at Dolby Labs.

In order to transform the functioning cinema into a venue fit for Oscar, crews also have to remove a massive movie screen, tons of cable, dozens of seats and 28 rigging motors inside the auditorium.

"The Academy uses very few motors in the Oscar's. Motors can fail," said David Gray, vice president of global services and industry relations at Dolby Labs.

During the show, technology will help stars and their fans connect through social media. This year, the Oscar green room, designed by Architectural Digest, will have Samsung tablets and a "GIF mirror" to let celebrities send out their emotional reactions over Twitter.

The Academy has also added a 4G LTE cell tower for connectivity. But there are no charging stations since most celebrities aren't using their phones during the ceremony - unless of course they are taking the ultimate Hollywood selfie.

  • Michael Casey

    Michael Casey covers the environment, science and technology for CBSNews.com