We recently went to the Dolby HQ in Soho, London, to check out their latest surround sound system, the Dolby Atmos. So what is it and is it any good? OH YES!
Dolby have redefined surround sound with Atmos to offer a truly immersive, high definition audio experience, not just for movies, but music and video games aswell.
“Dolby Atmos creates powerful, moving audio by introducing two important concepts to cinema sound: audio objects and overhead speakers. Together, these completely change how soundtracks are created and heard.”
Without getting into the real technical spec for the system, Dolby have taken the original 5.1 or 7.1 channel based system, and split it further. With traditional 5.1 systems, the sounds produced from a movie are directed through channels to each of the five speakers, centre, front left, front right, surround left and surround right. Dolby Atmos have taken it one step further and now sends sounds via a dedicated signal, to one single speaker, they have been stating a set up such as 7.1.2, where the 2 equals two speakers in the ceiling. At the Dolby HQ, they currently have 36 speakers around the cinema and in the ceiling. Each of these speakers is individually programmable so you can get the true effect of a helicopter going from left to right, over your head and or behind your head. By doing this, movie creators are able to almost pin point a sound with an image on the screen. Without hearing it with your own ears, it’s hard to describe how accurate a moving car or explosion can be, moving front left to right or front to back. Film producers are now creating movies alongside Dolby so the latest movies, such as Star Wars, can be heard with Dolby Atmos which can add that extra depth to the experience.
So what does it mean for home cinemas? Luxury home cinemas, you can probably afford to install a few speakers in the ceiling and upgrade your processor, which with enough money, is very easy. Popular AV consultants are already specifying the system for new home cinemas.
For those more modest; sure, you can install a couple of speakers in your living room ceiling. Some companies have produced speakers that direct sound onto the ceiling, giving the effect of ceiling speakers. I’m aware that Onkyo have a complete 5.1.2 speaker package for under £500, which is a complete steal if you ask me!
How good was it? Very, very good, nearing on EPIC. For some scenes in a movie it’s not required. Sometimes you wouldn’t notice the additional speakers and pin point sounds but most of the time, the definition is so crisp, you feel immersed in the movie. It really adds a lot to the experience.
Is this a game changer for the movie, music and gaming industry? Yes, it’s still relatively new but it is the future and in time to come, every movie will have the Atmos sound coding. You will enjoy your movie even more. Atmos is being used on newly released games such as Star Wars Battlefront and it’s being experimented with at live music venues. For further info, check out the official Dolby site.