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Dolby Stepping Up To Support Atmos Rollout

New York — Dolby Labs intends to be a resource for consumers and dealers for the launch of Dolby Atmos surround sound for the home, said Craig Eggers, director of Dolby’s home-theater initiative.

For dealers, the company plans demo discs, a white paper, information on setting up demo systems and an installation guide that highlights proper speaker placement. The guide will available around the time of the CEDIA Expo.

The company also plans online PowerPoint presentations for dealers and suppliers. They are expected to go up in the next 30 days.

“We’re building out an extensive resource bank for training,” Eggers said.

In addition, Dolby is having conversations with audio suppliers for possible collaborative advertising and promotion, Eggers said. Dolby is talking to the suppliers to identify their needs and their retailers’ need, he noted.

For consumers, Dolby continues to add more Atmos content to its website, and Dolby’s site will highlight audio suppliers’ products.

The efforts will complement online activities by such companies as Onkyo and Pioneer, which have created Atmos microsites with educational videos.

Dolby Atmos will bring new customers into the store, but a sale won’t happen without a demo, Eggers noted. “We’re working extensively with retailers, and they get it,” but the technology “needs to be experienced.”

Eggers discussed Dolby’s plans today during a press event held to answer Atmos questions and to demonstrate the technology in a quiet home theater environment.

Home audio products have begun to roll out, and Eggers said Dolby’s goal is the fall availability of Atmos soundtracks of Blu-ray discs and through video-streaming services.

Many home theater products will be displayed at next month’s CEDIA Expo in Denver.

Atmos eschews the channel-based approach of traditional soundtrack mixes. Atmos soundtracks attaches specific X, Y and Z coordinates to each sound, or object, to describe that sound’s location anywhere in a 360-degree space around the listener at any given time.

During the New York event, Dolby executives offered these insights into their technology:

–A change to the Blu-ray spec wasn’t needed to accommodate Atmos soundtracks, which consist of metadata added into the substreams of a Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. TrueHD is already approved for Blu-ray use.

–An Atmos-equipped AVR or preamp processor will render an Atmos soundfield only if a consumer selects the bitstream output of a Blu-ray player and turns off the player’s secondary-audio function.

–Atmos AVRs and preamp processors will up-mix two-channel and multichannel content to Atmos, delivering height information to in-ceiling speakers or to angled height drivers embedded in Atmos-enabled left-right and surround speakers. Those drivers bounce height information off ceilings, including drop ceilings made of hard reflective surfaces.

–Although Atmos-enabled speakers must be certified by Dolby to deliver height effects, any good-quality in-ceiling speaker is capable of delivering height effects. Dolby, however, recommends specific radiation patterns to widen the sweet spot to deliver an optimum experience to as many listeners as possible.

–Dolby has worked with suppliers to ensure their room-correction and calibration technologies work optimally with Atmos soundtracks.

–The company worked with THX to ensure there was no conflict between THX’s home-theater-certification standards and Dolby’s requirements for Atmos-enabled speakers.

–Atmos soundtracks played through home theaters that lack Atmos decoding will deliver enhanced sound. That’s because Atmos soundtracks are mixed specifically for cinemas with full-range surround speakers, enabling mixing engineers to bring more sound objects into a home theater room, said Brett Crockett, sound technology research senior director.

In other comments, Eggers said Dolby recommends the use of set-top boxes, Blu-ray players and game players to play back the Atmos soundtracks of streaming services, at least for now. TVs with embedded streaming services, he explained, are unlikely to pass an Atmos-enabled Dolby Digital Plus stream, or a standard channel-based Dolby Digital Plus stream, though their HDMI audio return channel to an AVR. “We’re working with TV manufacturers to ensure Dolby Digital Plus goes over the audio return channel” he said. It’s unclear whether any TV currently available will do so, he said.

In contrast, channel-based Dolby Digital Plus might be output from a TV through the TV’s HDMI audio return channel, but it depends on the TV. Neither Dolby Digital Plus nor Dolby TrueHD can be passed through a TV’s coaxial or optical output, he noted.