Kate Elizabeth Wilke
For the first time in the history of filmmaking, moviegoers will be able to experience a picture exactly as the filmmaker intended. Surround sound was the first step to creating a truly realistic theater setting, but the new Dolby Atmos speakers go much further.
Credit: Dolby website
These innovative speakers have set up an entirely new platform for the sound makers and directors of film. The key to this new technology is the overhead speakers, along with surrounding speakers, according to the Dolby website. The ultimate effect is a natural, 3-D and realistic sound, that pairs perfectly with what is viewed on the screen.
“Dolby Atmos provides the completely immersive sound experience that filmmakers like myself have long dreamed about,” Film director Peter Jackson said, according to the Dolby website.
The Benefits of the Dolby Atmos Speakers
One of the main benefits of the Dolby Atmos speakers is its ability to work in any theatre setup. Its flexibility allows for efficiency in the post-production and distribution of the film. During post-production with Dolby Atmos, audio engineers are now able to match the sound precisely to the action onscreen without much difficulty, according to Dolby.
The sound system also allows engineers to work object-oriented mixing for layering independent sound elements over the channel-based audio content. This means if a plane is flying across the screen, then the sound of the plane will match the sound one would here as if they were standing on the ground and a plane flew above their head. The system supports up to 128 simultaneous and lossless audio elements in any given mix, according to Dolby.
Sound designers are able to use an innovative, layered system to create the most realistic soundtrack. The base layer consists primarily of static ambient sounds, which are the sounds that make up the environment. When a person steps outside and nothing is going on, the sounds the person hears are the ambient sounds. Dynamic elements are mixed on top, which are flexible with the precise correspondence on screen. These are the sounds that are connected to the action. Dolby’s creation includes metadata, which records how the top-layer dynamic elements are intended to behave during playback.
Dolby Atmos allows distribution to be simpler by eliminating multiple format inventories. One file will work in any theater and reveal the same director’s intent. The program will work in theaters from 5.1 to Dolby Surround 7.1, and up to 64 channels, according to Dolby. The new technology builds intelligence into the audio files, which automatically removes the need for multiple versions. Dolby Atmos saves engineers from the complication of handling various versions and keys.
How the Speakers Work
Dolby Atmos uses up to 64 speakers to allow the best possible impact of each scene, according to Dolby. The design of the speaker setup invites creativity. Sound can travel around the theater for dynamic sound effects. This is largely different from standard theaters where sound cannot move above viewers as well as dynamically on the sides. As the sound moves around the theater, Dolby Atmos assures sustainable, tonal quality, while in theaters without Dolby Atmos the clarity and sharpness is lost.
The advantage to maintaining the tonal quality and having a mobile sound is that every seat in the theater has a consistent experience, according to Dolby. Dolby Atmos speakers are all individually controlled for the truest sound experience, rather than 5.1 and Dolby Surround 7.1 theaters, which have speakers grouped in zones.
“Dolby Atmos is fantastic from a sound quality position,” John Neill, of Park Road Post Production, said on the Dolby website. “We can now hear full-range surround speakers, meaning that when we pan from the front to surround, the sound does not change in quality. The overhead speakers give us the opportunity to place the theater patron really in the location.”
Dolby Atmos truly changes cinema so the audience can finally experience a film exactly as the producers intended. Not only will Dolby Atmos improve the anticipation for people to see acclaimed movies in theaters, but the speakers will also improve the ability for directors and audio engineers to work more creatively, efficiently, and accurately.
Several movies were released in 2012 that were compatible with Dolby Atmos—“Brave,” “Life of Pi,” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” to name a few. “Iron Man 3” and “Pacific Rim” are part of this year’s movies that are in Dolby Atmos and upcoming releases include “Insidious: Chapter 2,” “Lost Place,” and “The White Storm,” among others.
Visit the Dolby website for a full list of movies that are compatible with Dolby Atmos and to find a movie theater near you that is equipped with Dolby Atmos.
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