The Dolby Atmos Paradigm Shift


The Dolby Atmos Paradigm Shift:

In the past, sound has always been captured by a microphone and recorded by a tape machine, or some other recording device. This was fine when the playback was to be over speakers in a room, as it meant that it would sound exactly how it did at the recording. But everything changed when home theater arrived…

With home theater you could have multiple speakers behind the screen and around the room, and that started to change how we thought about sound design. Instead of just having to capture how things sounded in real life, we could now make sounds appear to come from anywhere in the room – even overhead.

How is this possible? Well, there are two tricks. The first is called panning: if you play a sound on both left and right speakers, but with slightly different volumes, we hear it as coming from somewhere between them. The second trick is called delay: if you put one speaker further away from us than the other, we hear that as well. By playing with these two parameters we can make sounds appear to come from anywhere in front of us (or behind us). In fact, if you have more than one pair of speakers (like home theater does), you can actually make sounds appear to move

The Dolby Atmos Paradigm Shift:

The introduction of Dolby Atmos is the single largest paradigm shift in cinema sound since the introduction of surround sound. It brings the audio component of cinema to a new height (pun intended!) and it is a thing of beauty to experience. For us, this change has been a little difficult because it has meant that we have needed to completely re-think how we should distribute our products. The move to 5.1 was difficult enough, but Atmos adds another layer of complexity to the distribution landscape and one that requires some thought and planning.

The big excitement with Atmos is that you can now have true 3D audio in your cinema. The concept is really simple: if you can hear exactly where a sound is coming from, then you don’t need much processing between your ears and your brain to figure out where it’s coming from. With traditional surround sound, this isn’t possible because sounds are always placed in 2D locations – left, centre, right or front, middle or rear; there’s no up or down component. This is where Atmos comes into its own because it breaks free of this limitation and allows for true 3D positioning of sounds within a hemispherical space around the listener.

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The Dolby Atmos Paradigm Shift:

Dolby Atmos at Home:

Dolby Atmos in the Real World:

Today, we are on the cusp of a new era for immersive entertainment. This era is being driven by Dolby Atmos, a revolutionary audio platform that transports audiences into the story with breathtaking realism through moving audio that flows all around them.

Dolby Atmos-enabled cinemas provide a vastly expanded soundstage overhead, delivering more powerful sound effects from all directions. When used in the home, Dolby Atmos technology uses ceiling speakers or in-ceiling speakers to deliver sound from above. The result is an extraordinary experience that brings audiences closer to the film than ever before.

Dolby Atmos recently celebrated its second birthday, and during this short time it has already been embraced by the creative community with great enthusiasm. More than 118 films have been released or announced for release with Dolby Atmos soundtracks, including such recent blockbusters as Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Gone Girl, and American Sniper.

I had a chance to listen to Dolby Atmos recently, and I came away impressed. It’s not the next big thing in music, but it is an impressive technological achievement that could change the way we listen to music in our home theaters.

Dolby Atmos is a new surround sound format that delivers on the promise of truly 3-D audio. It uses object-based surround sound encoding so that sounds can be placed precisely anywhere in your listening space, including overhead. The technology was originally developed for movies, where it has been used on several recent releases including “Iron Man 3” and “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

The future of sound has arrived, and it’s called Dolby Atmos. For decades, theater owners have been trying to create a more immersive sound experience for filmgoers, with mixed results. With the advent of 11.1 surround sound, there was a short period where moviegoers could experience what filmmakers intended them to hear. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. Only the most elite theaters had 11.1 surround sound installed, and soon it was phased out in favor of 7.1 surround sound. Audiences were fine with this, but filmmakers weren’t as pleased. The problem with 7.1 surround sound is that it doesn’t allow for much movement in the audio spectrum. It’s essentially 5 channels of speakers all around you, with an additional channel dedicated to low frequency sounds (subwoofer) and another channel for ambient noise (like birds chirping or the wind blowing). In effect, 7.1 surround does not create a fully immersive environment for audiences because the sound is coming from only one direction: in front of you, behind you and to either side of you.

One of the major problems with traditional 5-channel surround systems is that they’re limited by how many channels they can actually use at once. With 5 channels at your disposal,

When the Australian band Pendulum asked me in 2008 to remix their song “Showdown” to include in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, I had no idea that it would be the start of a long and fruitful relationship with video games.

But the process of remixing “Showdown” for GTA IV was so enjoyable that when I was approached by the game creators at Rockstar Games again a year later to do even more work for them, I jumped at the chance. While remixing for GTA IV was fun, remixing for Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned (the first major downloadable expansion pack for GTA IV) was incredibly exciting.

I collaborated with Chase & Status on a track called “In For The Kill,” based on their hit single release; we went into Eastwest Studios in Los Angeles and recorded a string section in an environment which is possibly one of only four or five studios in the world where Dolby Atmos can be properly recreated. This gave us the ability to mix music in a completely new way, allowing us to place instruments and effects anywhere we wanted within a sphere around our heads…


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