With all the talk about 3D and 48 frames per second screenings of films like The Hobbit, it’s easy to overlook that the movies aren’t solely about visuals – they’re about sound, too.
From plain old mono to surround sound to 5.1 and 7.1 configurations, the way movie audio is presented has changed a lot over the years. And while some expected the next evolution to be something like 9.1 or 11.1 surround sound (breaking down the speaker groups into more separate channels for effect), the guys at Dolby concluded that wasn’t going to be good enough.
So, they’ve come up with what they hope will revolutionize the way theater patrons (and eventually, home theater owners) experience the audio of films with a new surround sound system called Atmos.
Atmos promises to move away from the channel-based zones of 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound by offering what they’re calling a pan-through array. Rather than have sounds travel from the side to the back to the other side of a theater in general terms, the new process allows for the sound to migrate from each individual speaker to another – creating a much more realistic sense of movement. The potential addition of overhead speakers will only add to the sense of immersion for anyone watching a film.
The benefits of Atmos aren’t solely for the audience, though – the system also promises that sound mixers will no longer have to make multiple passes over a soundtrack to optimize it for all of the different surround scenarios in a theater. Instead, the new sound processors will automatically adjust the track to the theater’s system specs.
Early speculation is that implementing Atmos will be relatively cheap as well – meaning we hopefully won’t see a price increase for Atmos-enhanced screenings once the technology is in the wild. That’s a good thing, since it seems likely that we’re all going to be paying 3D and High Frame Rate surcharges on top of the already outrageous cost of a ticket in the very near future.
Check out this promotional video for the new system below and let us know if you’re impressed.