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Will You See Brave in a Dolby Atmos Theater?

Brave is the new animated feature from Disney and Pixar that opens today across the country. Of course, any new Pixar movie is cause for excitement, but this one is doubly so as the first movie with a soundtrack mixed for the Dolby Atmos cinema sound system, which places speakers all around the audience as well as overhead, creating a truly 3-dimensional soundfield. (For more on Dolby Atmos, click here; for my coverage of the world premier of Brave, click here.)

With any new technology, the only way to gauge its importance is to experience it for yourself. On the other hand, new technologies are often not widely available at first—Atmos has been installed in only 14 theaters around the country—making it difficult for most moviegoers to hear it firsthand. But for those who live near one of these theaters, this is an opportunity to hear what could be the next generation in movie sound.

Do you live near an Atmos theater? (Click here for a list of theaters and locations.) If so, will you make an effort to see Brave there? How far are you willing to go? HT reader Jarod and his wife are driving four hours! Or do you plan to skip the movie altogether? If you do see it in an Atmos theater, let us know your impressions of the system in the comments.

Vote to see the results and leave a comment about your choice.

Will You See Brave in a Dolby Atmos Theater?

Jarod's picture

Seeing it tomorrow in Dolby Atmos.

Jawthaw's picture

went to the amc in burbank today with my 13yo nephew to see what all the fuss was about and all i can say is, i wasnt blown away. i guess my expectations were set too high, especially when they had some guy come out before the movie began, trying to get us all hyped up about atmos. it was nice but no eargasm for me. i asked my nephew what his opinion was and he just thought it was ok, kinda cool, no big deal. maybe an action movie would be better suited with atmos...oh and i was sitting right in the center of the room, came an hour early just to make sure ;)

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Yeah, Dolby pushes the PR pretty hard! I admit they could have done more with the overhead sounds, but what is there impressed me as a first attempt at a new technology. I'm sure that, as sound engineers learn how to use it more effectively, it'll only get better. And I agree it should be killer with an action movie.
techguy378's picture

Yes, I plan on seeing Brave. I live across the river from Cinetopia. The overhead speakers are nice, but Dolby should have required that transducers be put on every seat in the theater. The only movie I've ever seen in a theater where I could feel the bass was Starwars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace. This was at a lowly Regal movie theater. My home theater system calibrated with Audyssey MultEQ can put out more floor shaking bass than most movie theaters I've been to. I have a Definitive Tech Pro Sub 1000 subwoofer.

Jarod's picture

If you want make your heart stop bass from a cinema, visit the AMC 24 BarryWoods and see a movie in theater 12 which is an ETX theater. Twelve, or 6 cabs with 2 subs each, 18 in subs hangin from the back wall alone. The bass made IMAX seem a little timid and Im being 100% serious. It was almost too much!

techguy378's picture

Isn't this the same as Cinemark's XD theater? If that's the type of theater you're referring to then it's not impressive at all. I paid extra to see a movie in an XD theater. The picture on that massive wall to wall screen had black bars on the top and bottom. The sound system sounded far worse than a regular 7.1 channel theater. An IMAX theater would have been better since it at least requires all movies to be formatted to fit the screen. Of course Omnimax theaters are still the best theaters in the world. Everything else is a cheap imitation.

Jarod's picture

Yes the picture was indeed shown on a 1:78.1 screen with black bars which I hate. Bunch of BS they don't recieve the DCP in Flat and Scope formats. Digital IMAX showing Hollywood Scope format films will do the same thing too. I agree true IMAX 15/70 film format theaters are the best around for picture quality. A thing of beauty. But im talking audio and Ive been to IMAXs from coast to coast and ive heard louder and more ear piercing mid and highs at some of those theaters then this. But this was different. This theater had an entire new 58 speaker Dolby Atmos sound system installed that until you hear it it is pointless to comment on the quality of it which is to say first rate until YOU yourself have heard it. Do you always judge without witnessing yourself?

Jarod's picture

Thought Id comment on my trip to see Brave in Dolby Atmos at the KCMO AMC 24. Brave was a fantastic movie that hit all the right cords and had my wife and I laughing out loud at times. I wanna see it again for sure! It was in theater 12, a stadium style theater that seated 473, which is their only ETX theate. We sat a a bit further than half way back at dead center. It has a screen a little smaller than a large digital IMAX has and it was in a ratio of 1.78:1. This made the movie and previews have letterbox bars cause it was presented in Scope. A Flat version of Brave wasn't sent with the Scope version? I find this hard to believe. Oh well lol. I always thought all ETX screens had dual projecters but this one odly only had one Christie DCI series 2 pj with a RealD 3D XL filter. I was worried it would be dim but brightness was surprisngly good! Speaker wise: QSC speakers all around. 10 surrounds on each left and right wall, 8 back wall surrounds, and two rows of 7 on the ceiling. Subs where installed in the back of the theater: each back wall corner had a cab with 2x18 in subs then at the back end of each ceiling speaker column was 2 cabs each containing 2 18in subs, with a total of 12 18 in subs just in the back!! No one could answer what exactly was used for the screen channels and subs except that they were QSC as well and that this theater had 58 speakers total. Before the show the Dolby rep came out and announced Dolby Atmos with a brief explanation. It was cool with very little hyperbole. He explained that this was a smaller Atmos installation and told us some of the effects in the movie to listen for. The Dolby Atmos trailer was very cool. Sounds did indeed sweep all around us and over us and in between. As the movie began things started heating up. Little wisps floating in directions ive never heard. Bagpipes playing in what sounded like all directions around me. Horses galoping all the way down one side of one of the walls from the front making a perfectly smooth pan. I did want more over head effects though cause everytime I heard one I wanted more and more. It was truely addictive. The sound level they had set was certainly at reference or near as it was one of the most dynamically engauging cinemas I have ever been in, and I mostly frequent giant IMAX installations and the like! Having that much bass in the back really added girth and weight to all the surround speakers. Afterwards we filled out surveys about our experience today and got a poster and coupons for free popcorn. Anybody around KC really needs to check out this theater just for the sound alone. This made me really see, or hear I should say, how much potential Dolby Atmos has. I believe a movie with a more aggressive surround mix would absolutely be incredible! I think Atmos could turn poor sounding theaters into at the very least a theater with a better surround experience or turn good sounding theaters into truely great ones. Until the next Dolby Atmos mixed movie!

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Thanks for your detailed report! I'm so glad you enjoyed it after such a long drive. As you'll read below, I saw it again in an AMC ETX theater with Atmos, and it was even better than when I saw the premier (which wasn't hard to do, since I had such a lousy seat for that).
Jarod's picture

No problem Scott and thanks. That's great to hear that you enjoyed it at your local AMC ETX theater.

david6607's picture

My family and I saw this at an AMC ETX theater in Lake Buena Vista Florida. I drove an hour and a half, in tropical storm conditions, just to hear the Dolby Atmos Sound. While I will not comment on every nuance of the sound, I agree with the previous post. I was impressed with the quality of the surround as I felt like during the musical score of the movie, a live orchestra was seated just behind the screen. The lows shook the building clearly and forcefully. I thought that was impressive. Cant wait for this to be in more theaters.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I'm so glad you enjoyed the experience, especially after driving so long through a storm! I, too, was very impressed with the musical score in Dolby Atmos.
techguy378's picture

I am planning on seeing Brave in Atmos surround. While I'm sure that imaging will be awesome, theaters than can produce floor shaking bass are extremely rare. Either that or the folks at the movie studios that create the movies are slacking off.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I saw Brave again last Sunday at the AMC ETX theater in Burbank; got a seat in the center of the auditorium. I was much more impressed with Dolby Atmos the second time around than I was at the premier in the Dolby Theater last week, where I was in a less-than-ideal seat. The 3D soundfield was readily apparent, filling the space beautifully. I especially liked the scene in which Merida and her mother are caught in a rain storm; the rain sound from overhead was very effective! I also liked that the music was mixed into the overheads a bit, though it wasn't overdone.

The only problem was the was so loud that the effect was somewhat masked. It wasn't that much louder than the premier (average 84.8dBA, highest maximum 102.0dBA), but the bass was excessive; despite what techguy378 says above, it definitely shook the house in this case!

I took my 18-year-old niece, who thought it was very good as well. (My wife had to leave because it was too loud for her.) We both agreed that it was too loud, and the effect was sometimes rather subtle. I also agree with Jawthaw that Atmos should be amazing with an action flick, but I was much more impressed by the Brave soundtrack than he seemed to be. It's an excellent first effort to use a new technology, and as engineers learn its ins and outs, it should get even better.

Cheesypoofs's picture

I was able to see Brave in the Cinemark XD in West Plano, Texas this past weekend.

This particular theater already had the best sound system in the area (personal opinion). The opening Atmos demo itself was incredible, as the sound in the trees was amazing.

The actual sound during the movie was subtle, but engaging.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I agree that the sound of the Atmos demo trailer is amazing, more pronounced than the Brave soundtrack. But still, I think it's also very effective in the movie.
Jarod's picture

Yes the Dolby Atmos trailer was incredible! It made the hair on my neck stand-up.

AVtheaterguy's picture

This morning I went with my girlfriend to see BRAVE in Burbank at the AMC 16 in the ETX theater with Dolby Atmos.

Pretty darn awesome sound field I must say. I totally agree that the Dolby Atmos trailer was awesome. Surround effects coming from all angles gave it a very 3D sound.

As far as the movie BRAVE goes, it was a nice added effect, but like the other commenters have said, it was a little bit to loud to really discern the separation of the sounds, but it was clearly more filling than movies without the Atmos effect.

Can't wait to see a really awesome Action film in Atmos... Dark Knight Rises please!!!

Thomas J. Norton's picture
Yes, I saw and heard Brave at the AMC 16 cineplex in Burbank CA. I enjoyed the movie--not Pixar's best, but no slouch either.

The screen in Burbank is one of AMC's ETX houses. ETX stands for Enhanced Theater Experience, and it's AMC's answer to Imax. (Curiously, the same complex also has a good Imax auditorium.)

As is the case with most movie presentations in LA that claim state-of-the-art sound (and some that don't!), the sound level was far too high--and this comes from someone who plays his home theater pretty loud. Unfortunately, these SPL levels largely swamped any benefits from Atmos in the major action scenes, which sounded no better than an overcranked 5.1 or 7.1 multichannel mix.

The quieter scenes did offer a new and intriguing experience, however, as effects popped up from numerous, precisely placed locations in the theater. This was evident in the movie itself, but even more so from the quiet and subtle Atmos promo trailer that preceded it. Dolby is to be commended for this, and for avoiding bombast to show how loud their system can go. But even during the movie, the overhead channels appeared to be little used, though I may have missed a few things as I got more into the story.

Incidentally, I saw Prometheus in the same auditorium last week. It was not mixed in Atmos, of course, but I was blown away by the low frequency power of this theater's sound system. Was this due to Atmos? I don't know if AMC replaced the subs in this theater when Atmos was installed, but I will inquire. In any case, Prometheus could well be the next subwoofer killer when it comes out on Blu-ray.

Thomas J. Norton's picture
Clearly my comments largely agree with others. The general remarks on the ETX bass leads me to believe that the sound system in the Burbank house may indeed have been upgraded, though I wasn't nearly as impressed by the bass in Brave as by the bass in Prometheus. I only saw the latter there last Tuesday, so I suspect the Atmos system had already been installed.

The reason I want to check for this is that this ETX theater has been in operation for over a year now, so it had a powerful sound system long before Atmos was ready. Clearly, they had to modify the main channels for the new system, but the subs? We'll see. I've seen several movies in that house prior to this month, including Battle Los Angeles last year, and I was never as impressed by its bass performance before. The bass in the Imax house is boomy in comparison.

I disagree with the criticism that Brave had black bars on the ETX theater's 1.78:1 screen and should have been designed to fit that screen. The decision on aspect ratio belongs to the filmmaker as to which choice better meets his or her artistic intentions for the movie, not to match some arbitrary standard set by the movie theater's unavoidably fixed screen size. Actually, now that I'm mainly using a 2.35:1 screen at home, an action movie, like Avatar, that comes in a 1.78:1 ratio on Blu-ray annoys me! But I know why it was done.

Jarod's picture

Tom I totally agree with you about the director making the decision on the aspect on the film. In fact scope format is my favorite way to few a movie. I did not mean to imply that the movie should have been desigined to fit a screen nor should that ever be the case. My point was that my pet pieve is a theater that does not have proper masking for different format films when they charge a premeium for an upgraded viewing experience or any theater for that matter.Showing a scope film on an unmasked flat screen isn't exactly tipping the cap to the director either. And the Dolby rep did indeed say extra subs were installed for the Atmos install. Did not know if he was referring to the subs in the back of the auditorium or behind the screen.

NikitaP's picture

I enjoyed the presentation at the AMC Downtown Disney in Florida. ETX and Atmos has surely delivered! I can certainly tell the difference!

Location disclaimer: At a 7:45PM showing on a Saturday the darn Cuban food join across the "street" was playing a continuous loop of some garbage salsa music, which was bleeding into the theater during the most vital quite scenes of the movie. It drove me completely insane! If I was not accompanied, I would have tore into the management of the completex at once!

Now I am excited to finally hook up my surround heights in my 9.2 home theater.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Glad to hear you enjoyed the Atmos experience, even despite the intrusive salsa music. I'm amazed that music from outside made it into the theater! Either that music was SUPER loud, or the theater is not well insulated for sound. Did you think the movie soundtrack was too loud? It certainly was in the AMC ETX theater in Burbank.