We live in exciting times. Technology is everywhere, and now more than ever. In the cinema business, first came the video on 3D, and the next step seems to be the sound in 3D.
“Dolby Atmos is a platform, not a product, at this stage, as we want to ensure the industry is ramped up with a content pipeline an exhibition has time to properly outfit their theaters,” emphasizes Stuart Bowling, Senior Technical Marketing Manager, Cinema, Dolby. And then about three years ago we decided to change direction and focus on object-oriented development, where we are able to marry the fundamental channel bed with an object-based solution. This helps to better separate the sound from the channel, allowing Dolby Atmos to move away from a definitive channel count and be able to play back in any type of theater configuration.”
To truly understand the potential of the Dolby Atmos solution, you have to divorce yourself of the notion of discrete playback based on channels and amps and zones and arrays. These still matter, as Dolby Atmos is based on a 5.1 or, preferably, 7.1, or even a 9.1 mix and print master. Same as it ever was. But the platform includes the capability for up to 128 channels, 64 speaker feeds, of object-based sound design, separate from the bed and rendered in real time on playback in the theater, optimized for that particular space’s amp/speaker configuration. Dolby is working closely with Harman Professional’s cinema team—including JBL and Crown Audio—to optimize amp and speaker technologies and integration for the Dolby Atmos platform.
“Every seat in the theater is improved, delivering a much larger sweet spot,” Bowling says, “whether it’s a showcase room or a 5.1 space waiting to upgrade. It’s really a custom mix per room.”
For editors and mixers, the possibilities seem limitless, a classic example of putting the tools in the hands of the creators. Dolby has written the panning software and demo’ed a rather primitive but effective GUI for real-time visual monitoring of the “object” audio movement. Re-recording mixers often speak in cooking metaphors when discussing a project; here they are truly able to add spice to a track. And they don’t need to think about channels, only the space. As Bowling says, “We want them to think as a mixer that anywhere they want to put a sound, just pretend that there is a speaker there, and regardless of the room, it will play back as intended.”
And now, my question is: the future of sound is on adding more speakers….or in an individual sweet spot sound format for everyone in the cinema? new speaker format? Please leave your comment