The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is shaping up to be a groundbreaking event for film technology. First, we heard that Director Peter Jackson shot the film at 48 frames-per-second, and now he's telling us that the film's sound will be mixed for Dolby's ultra-intense new Atmos system.

Dolby Atmos allows a film's sound designers to map sounds to each of up to 128 locations in a theatre—including above the audience. (How many of the 128 potential elements are used is up to both the designers and the constraints of a particular theater, but the minimum number of speakers is thirty-two.)

The technology is a huge leap forward from the 7.1 channel surround sound available to designers before. The system launched earlier this summer with Brave at just a handful of locations in the US, but Dolby says that the Empire cinema in London's Leicester Square is currently the only UK cinema with Atmos, and they're not yet sure if The Hobbit will be screened with the Atmos mix when the film comes out on December 14th. [Dolby via Engadget]