This weekend, the world will get its first chance to experience the latest sounds from the cinema audio nerds at Dolby. Pixar's new animated feature, Brave, is the first film to use Dolby's new Atmos technology, which makes 7.1 sound on Toy Story 3 seem pathetic.
The new technology allows sound designers to mix up to 128 different sound elements into 64 speakers. That's unprecedented detail. Previously, sound was mixed into channels, then blasted to groups of speakers — Toy Story 3 was mixed in seven channels plus a subwoofer track. The precisely tuned new system will sprinkle additional elements over a traditional channel mix, making movies sound even more like the real world. IEEE Spectrum spoke to Brave's sound designer, who sums up what that'll feel like in the theater.
Since you can't make the audience feel heat or cold, or smell the ocean, you use sounds to help provide the feeling you want the audience to have," says Will Files, the re-recording mixer who oversaw the Atmos sound mix of Brave. "Take the concept of visual resolution — it's the same idea with sound. Many more points of sound in a room create a higher resolution field that sounds more natural.
Atmos is also the first Dolby system to include ceiling speakers in the mix. Imagine being able to recreate the effect of hearing your upstairs neighbours walking around their flat. Thanks to Dolby, that's here. Unfortunately, only 15 theaters in the US and Canada support Dolby Atmos so far, so let's hope they get their act in gear and bring it over to a cinema near you soon. [IEEE Spectrum]