A few months back, we shared a sneak peek video of how Dolby’s new Atmos surround system would work. The whole thing sounded pretty amazing, but it’s hard to get a feel for just how cool it is from reading about it or watching a video on your computer.
That being said, if you happened to catch Pixar’s Brave this weekend, you may have gotten your first exposure to the new system. The Disney partner’s animated tale has the distinction of being the first film to use the new technology – which makes the traditional 7.1 surround sound system most theaters use today seem pretty lame in comparison.
At the heart of the new tech is the system’s reliance on more speakers than ever before – 64 in all, including ones across the ceiling of the auditorium – which will allow sound designers to mix in up to 128 sound elements into a scene. This is an unprecedented level of precision for sound technicians to work with and should lead to the creation of some very realistic sound effects in movies.
IEEE Spectrum spoke to Will Files, the re-recording mixer who oversaw the Atmos version of Pixar’s film.
“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. 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.”
As an example of this in action, there’s a scene in Brave where the wind blows through the castle. With Atmos, the sound has a more natural and realistic effect as it jumps from speaker to speaker in correlation with the onscreen action as opposed to the 7.1 set-ups “zones.”
If you're unsure if there's a Dolby Atmos-equipped theater in your area, here's a list of locations.
Expect Atmos to become the new theatrical standard for sound moving forward – the early reaction appears to be positive. Did you see Brave in Atmos this weekend? If you did, let us know what you thought of the experience by leaving a comment below.