The Best Dolby Atmos Blu-ray Demos

I’ve been fortunate enough to watch nearly every Dolby Atmos encoded Blu-ray disc that has been released so far. While some of the movies are terrific (Gravity) others are more just things you suffer through (Jupiter Ascending). To save you some time trying to find the best scenes to demo, I’m gonna pinpoint each film’s marquee Atmos audio moment! (Some spoilers ahead…)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Near the end of the film during the climactic final battle, a tower is collapsing with bits of metal and debris crashing down all around and overhead. And in a scene that nicely displays the use of sound, while our ninja turtle heroes are having one of those impossibly long falling moments that no mortal being could possibly survive, Raphael maintains a running, “I love you guys!” dialog with all this mayhem and music going on, when the music abruptly stops and there is this sudden moment of just silence with bits of building debris falling around the room.

John Wick
This is a perfect role for Keanu Reeves because it requires very little talking on his part. The film is slick, cool and brutal. At 41 minutes in Wick visits a club and there is a ton of ambient club music and conversations and dinner plates and glasses clinking. Minutes later at another private club, the music plays an important role in letting you know which level or area of the club you’re in and the overhead speakers do a great job of filling in the room space and setting the difference moods as characters move through the differences spaces. This scene is punctuated by blasts of silenced pistol fire as Wick moves through the club fighting and taking out bad guys and finishes with two loud blasts from Wick’s unsilenced back-up weapon.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Sonically, much of this film is dialog driven and takes place inside the cramped, indoor, underground concrete, missile silo-esque bunker of District 13. The mix does a great job of relaying the claustrophobia and closeness of the acoustic rooms and spaces, providing lots of reverberation and background mechanical, generator, and air circulation sounds that really help to place you inside District 13 with Katniss. At 43 minutes, Katniss flies into District 8 and the jet hovers, stirring up lots of ground debris and then flies off overhead to disappear off in the sonic distance. This sets up the film’s first big action sequence at 48 minutes as Katniss and her team walk around outside. Creating the larger open space is the sounds of atmospheric and nature sounds swirling through the overhead speakers. This relative calm is broken by air raid klaxons and the chatter of anti-aircraft machine gun fire. Several explosions and debris blasts fill the room, as does the swirling audio from the attacking jets. The scene ends with the crackling or roaring fire as it burns in the new rubble as fire is catching.

More than any film I’ve watched so far, Gravity does the best job of taking advantage of the four discreet overhead speakers. Where most times these speakers almost seem to be used as one channel to create space, or ambience, or just echo the music, here they are frequently used independently to bounce, swirl and shift the audio environment around the space of ceiling. The music continually does a great job of matching the onscreen tension, swirling and spinning to mimic Stone’s on-screen disorientation. When the order to abort the repair mission comes from Harris back in Houston, it’s mixed full and loud up to the ceiling speakers, moving around through all four of the channels. This loud interruption gives urgency to the on-screen action. Moments later as the shuttle is bombarded with Russian satellite debris, there is heavy music from the overheads and Kowalski’s voice swirling around the room as he tries to locate Stone as she floats away off structure. While Stone is floating away out into space, the speakers are filled with static that drifts in and out as she tries to orient herself and reach Houston.

American Sniper
Disappointingly, the ceiling speakers are rarely used at all during this movie. In fact, there are literally only six scenes in the entire film that have any audio going to the ceiling speakers. Even still, there is a lot of great ambience and sound mixing on the floor speakers and the best audio comes in the film’s climactic finale battle sequence, where Kyle and other soldiers set up observation on the roof, with dust and wind swirling around the room. A lengthy gun battle breaks out at the 1:45, culminating at around 1:50 with the howling winds of a blinding sandstorm, as gunfire pelts and explosions erupt around the room. Only at the very end of the scene, as the camera pulls back from Mustafa’s body, do the ceiling speakers finally kick in, filling the overheads with the swirling sounds of desert winds.

Jupiter Ascending
At 26 minutes, we get the best demo scene in the entire film. In fact, sonically it is probably one of the best Dolby Atmos demo clips from a movie yet. It lasts a little over five minutes, making it absolutely terrific demo room fodder, short of an “Oh sh--!” bit of profanity at the very beginning making it less family friendly. The entire scene really demonstrates the swirling and object tracking of Atmos, with all the floor and ceiling speakers fully engaged throughout. It begins with Caine and Jupiter ascending outside the Sears Tower, where ships suddenly materialize overhead. The scene kicks into high gear when Caine’s ship is blown up overhead, causing lots of debris to rain down on the pair. They take off in Caine’s gravity boots and are chased around the tower by multiple alien ships, with lots of swirling audio overhead and around the room with really aggressive pans and tracking and things blowing up off to the side, overhead, and in back. Caine hijacks a ship and heads into the water, with the aliens in pursuit plunging in and out of water, with audio constantly rocking overhead and crisscrossing around the room, all amidst a constant backdrop of laser fire and explosions.

David Vaughn's picture
John, great write-up and I agree with the majority of your assessments. One thing to remember though, Atmos is more than just "overhead" sounds, it's about placing sounds in space and virtually every release thus far has done that quite well. Take "American Sniper," the shooting range scenes are fantastic on placing discrete effects in space as the bullet finds its target. In fact, I was looking over my shoulder multiple times trying to find the bullet holes in the wall behind me :)
John Sciacca's picture
David, definitely agree with the object tracking. Atmos titles all do an amazing job of creating ambience in a scene. Another moment I loved in Sniper was at around the 30-minute mark, Kyle picks off a hostile and the bullet whips overhead and hits high up on the left wall, perfectly matching the on-screen action. I felt like there were just a LOT of opportunities for the sound mixer to use the height plane to match what happened on screen. My cousin was a sniper on Team VII, so... :-)
jewelblute's picture

Although Dolby Atmos is still relatively new as a domestic format, enough Blu-ray discs have been released for us to give you our current top ten. For those that may be unfamiliar with Dolby Atmos, it is one of three competing audio formats that use additional speakers to create a more immersive surround experience. It was initially launched in the cinema over four years ago and to date there are more than 200 film titles mixed using the format. Dolby Atmos is an object-based system and in the cinema utilities more speakers around the sides and rear, additional subwoofers and two rows of overhead speakers. So it will be good one and it will be a growth technology. I am working in Professional resume writing serviceWe both know you didn’t just build an incredible home theater just so you could have it all to yourself all the time. You’re itching to show it off any chance you get, and that’s perfectly natural.