In preparation for the launch of the first wave of Dolby Atmos-enabled products, Dolby is conducting press demos in New York and Los Angeles this week. Stay tuned for our reports later in the week. In the meantime, we touched base with Brett Crockett, director of sound research at Dolby Labs, to learn more about Atmos and its promise of taking home theater to new heights.
S&V: Why does the world need another surround format? What does Atmos bring to the home theater experience?
Brett Crockett: Dolby Atmos moves beyond the paradigm of channel-based audio, which has gone as far as it can in the home. Captivating sound surrounds you from all directions, including overhead, filling the room with astonishing clarity, richness, detail, and depth. The specific sounds of people, music, and things move all around you in multidimensional space, so you feel like you are inside the action.
S&V: How does the “object-based” Atmos system compare with the familiar channel-based system?
BC: Until now, cinema sound designers have had to mix independent sounds together into channels for soundtrack creation. A discrete sound, such as a helicopter, has been assigned to an individual channel rather than precisely to where it would occur naturally in the scene. While a sound can move across channels, there’s no height dimension. For example, you might hear the helicopter from a side channel (and speaker array) but not above you. This approach limits your audio experience because it can’t come close to matching the way you hear in real life, with sounds coming from every direction.