Dolby Demos Atmos Cinema Technology

Dolby Laboratories conducted demos of its new immersive cinema sound technology, Atmos, in its New York City private screening theater last week. Two recent theatrical releases, including Taken 2 and Chasing Mavericks, have been mixed in the Atmos audio platform, and are being played in a handful of select theaters in the U.S. and elsewhere that are equipped to show off the technology to full effect.

According to the company, the technology benefits content creators in that it permits a greater degree of control over placement and movement of sound within a movie theater than before; for theaters, the benefit is that content playback can be optimized for any speaker configuration; for film distributors, it eliminates the need for multiple-format inventories, as the same file will play in any theater.

The system is scalable, and can compensate for anomalies of different-shaped multiplex cinema rooms, according to the company; moreover, theater owners can add to their existing speaker setups rather than starting from scratch. Atmos includes support for up to 64 speaker channels; it uses top surround speakers on the ceiling, additional side surrounds placed closer to the screen for better audio transitions, more speakers behind the screen for smoother pans to benefit rooms with very wide screens, and support for pan-through arrays – that is, speakers can be individually addressed for more precise sound positioning around the audience.

The goal, said Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s senior worldwide technical marketing manager for cinemas, is to have Atmos systems in 80 to 100 theaters worldwide by December, in a total of 150 theaters by the end of Q1 of 2013, and in 1,000 theaters worldwide by the end of next year.

Bowling said that the company is vested in development of the technology for cinema currently while researching how it would work through other platforms including consumer iterations. “There is no timetable as yet” for a consumer version of Atmos, he added.

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