What is Dolby Atmos?
Developed in 2012, Atmos expands the previous 5.1 and 7.1 setups to include numerous speakers which are placed around a room to create an all-enveloping, “3D” sound experience.
In a cinema setting, where the technology was first introduced, up to 64 speakers will not only be placed in front of, and at various points around you, but also above you. This adds a height dimension to the sound, creating a hemisphere of speakers which allows film-makers and sound designers to direct specific sounds to certain areas in the room with a high degree of accuracy.
One of, if not the main thing to be aware of when it comes to Dolby Atmos is the concept of audio objects. Previously, sounds were constrained to specific channels – portions of the audio which get routed to particular speakers.
“With the high-tech coding that is Dolby Atmos many combinations of speakers can be used – we can often use your existing speakers along with add-ons to get that truly amazing Atmos experience”
With Dolby Atmos, sound designers don’t have to limit a sound to a particular channel. They can specify where an individual sound originates from and moves to, and the Atmos system will interpret that data and play it back within a virtual 3D space.
The result is sound that feels as though it’s coming from the room you’re sitting in. Rain drops can be heard hitting individual leaves close-by, helicopters sound like they’re flying right above you. Individual sounds that are no longer limited to a particular speaker or channel in this way are known as audio objects.
With Atmos, a foundation level of sound is still mixed using the traditional channel-based approach. These will be the ambient, static sounds which don’t require pin-point specific placement. On top of that layer, the ‘audio objects’ will be placed, along with their respective spatial metadata, to create a much more dynamic sound experience. The technology allows for up to 128 audio channels, 10 of which will be used for the base layer, leaving 118 for the audio objects.
Using object-based audio also means the sound data can scale across multiple formats. 64 speakers is the best way to render the Atmos soundscape, but that doesn’t mean other, less elaborate setups can’t reproduce the same audio experience. In that sense, it’s not so much about the number of speakers, but the principle of audio objects and how they can be reproduced across various systems.
Whether you’re listening in a cinema with a giant 64-speaker setup, or at home with only seven speakers, or even using headphones, all the necessary data is there for the 128 audio objects to be played accurately, making the technology incredibly adaptable.
At Vick Audio Video, LLC we support both ONKYO and Dolby Atmos. Have questions? Call us at anytime at 817 658-7598. Consultations are always free.