By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
New York – Dolby Laboratories will roll out its Dolby Atmos surround technology to 80 to 100 digital cinemas worldwide by the end of the year.
However, the company doesn’t yet have a timetable for migrating the technology to the home, said Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s senior worldwide technical marketing manager for cinemas.
Bowling made his comments from inside Dolby’s Atmos-equipped private screening room in Manhattan, where he demonstrated the technology for reporters.
Atmos uses “object-based” sound mixing to provide precise control over the placement and movement of individual sounds, or “objects,” anywhere within a movie theater through up to 64 discrete speakers, including multiple side speakers and multiple overhead speakers on the ceiling. Object-based mixing adds descriptive metadata to sounds to fix their playback location anywhere within a listening environment, no matter the room size or number of speakers, Dolby literature states. As a result, the technology delivers “pinpoint precision” of sound moving throughout a theater and creates a “hemisphere of sound,” Bowling explained. In theaters, the technology also delivers greater fidelity and resolution as a sound travels around a theater compared to 5.1- and 7.1-channel theater systems, he said.
When Atmos soundtracks are mixed, sounds are mixed based on where the sound exists in space rather than on which speaker will reproduce it, Bowling continued. The technology recognizes the size of a theater and the number and location of speakers to deliver accurate placement of sounds as they appear in the soundtrack mix.
Because the technology scales up and down, it can bring benefits to home theaters using far fewer speakers, Bowling said. Dolby is researching how the technology could be applied in the home and whether it could be used in optical discs and video streaming, he said.
Even in home theater systems with a traditional 7.1-speaker setup, Atmos would deliver more precise placement of sound, Bowling said in response to a question. The company is still researching whether overhead speakers would be needed in the home. The technology could also be applied to headphone playback, he added.
Dolby is also investigating whether the technology could be implemented in two-speaker audio systems and in soundbars, a spokesman later told TWICE.
In outlining the technology’s rollout to digital cinemas, Bowling said Atmos would expand to 80 to 100 cinemas worldwide by the end of the year, with another 30 to 50 going online in the first quarter of 2013. By the end of December 2013, 1,000 theaters would be capable of reproducing Atmos soundtracks. Today, 13 theaters in North America, including a theater in Manhattan’s Time Square, are Atmos-equipped.
Those theaters can choose from four Atmos-mixed movie titles announced to date, with two more to be announced soon for commercial release by the end of the year, Bowling said.
Announced titles are Fox’s Taken 2, Chasing Mavericks, and Life of Pi as well as Disney Pixar’s Brave.
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