Dolby is a name that will be familiar to many people. Its sound technologies are pretty much ubiquitous and Dolby Surround has been entrancing people since the early 80s. Now, the company has announced that its Atmos surround sound technology is coming out of the cinema and into the home.
Dolby Atmos was launched in 2012 and has been installed, or committed for installation, in over 600 cinema screens worldwide. It has been used for a number of major film releases, such as Life of Pi, The Hobbit, Elysium, Gravity and Frozen.
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The technology aims to create a "3D sound experience" and allows filmmakers to target sounds anywhere in a room as dictated by the requirements of a scene. The main improvements that it promises for the audience over 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems are the ability to make sounds appear to originate from overhead without the need for overhead speakers (although they can be used), improved audio quality and timbre matching, and greater spatial control and resolution.
Support is provided for up to 128 simultaneous and lossless audio elements in a mix and, with cinema output in mind, up to 64 speakers. Sound positioning is delivered using object-oriented mixing to "layer independent sound elements over channel-based audio content."
For home viewers, all this should add up to a more impressive and immersive experience. Dialogue will follow characters around the screen better, with sound directionally projected into the room. Likewise, sound effects will track the camera better as it pans around. Ambient sounds should be clearer and more "enveloping" with specific details (or objects) jumping out more.
Dolby says that its hardware partners will be rolling out new Atmos devices over the coming months, though some products have been announced to tie in with the announcement itself. Pioneer, Denon, Marantz, Integra and Onkyo have all put their names to upcoming Atmos devices. In a blog post on the Dolby website, the company's director of sound research Brett Crockett says that Dolby Atmos Blu-Ray titles are expected from 2015.
The video below provides a short introduction to Dolby Atmos.