Dolby Promises “Powerful New Listening Experience” With 'Atmos', To Debut With Pixar's Brave


You can have your high-definition projector, 5.1 surround sound Blu Ray player set-ups and a smorgasbord of discs to enjoy in your own home, but for the greatest movie-going experience, nothing quite matches the local multiplex. Now, Dolby is all set to roll-out its brand-new sound system ‘Atmos’ in cinemas, beginning with Disney Pixar’s Brave, that provides cinema-goers with a sound unequalled by the standard surround sound set-up; not least through its use of speakers in the ceiling.

The new audio format - which Dolby’s senior vice president, Ioan Allen, boasts provides “the illusion of there being an inifinte number of [audio] channels…all the way around you and over your head” – features the addition of speakers within the ceiling and a greater number of speakers behind the screen to deliver something far superior to that currently offered, delivering “smoother pans” of sounds that is said to bring a “completely new listening experience.” While the latter sounds uncannily like marketing guff, Dolby’s innovation within the cinema-going experience ought not to be under-estimated – the San Francisco-based company founded has been at the pinnacle of sound and visual technology for quite some time; most recently delving into 3D and using another Pixar film, Toy Story 3, as the launch pad for its Dolby Surround 7.1 system.

With Atmos, the company is promising unparalleled control over the sound projected by speakers, with the addition of speakers on ceilings and those behind the screen “able to pinpoint sound [much more effectively] than trying to emulate it through an array of loudspeakers.” During a demonstration at Dolby’s San Francisco HQ, senior technical marketing manager Stuart Bowling partly delivered on that promise, insisting “You can imagine watching a scary movie, and it’s a scene when someone is hiding in a basement and there are footsteps on the floorboards above. The Atmos system will actually play that audio from above people in the theater.”

It sounds nothing but incredible, ready to push an experience of sound as-yet-unmatched in conventional cinema chains and promising such realism in audio you’ll literally be reaching to wipe the rain drops from your shoulders during a stormy scene. Dolby plans to roll-out the system more widely in 2013. 

Richard Birkett