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Sound tech that boosts storytelling!

Image by Samuel Rios - Unsplash

Do you enjoy going to the cinema and listening to music? If so, plug your headphones in for this blog!

A bit late to the party on this one, but thought I’d share a few facts about Dolby Atmos® Sound seeing as though we can now experience it in homes with entertainment packages such as Sky Glass and via, for example, AirPods on iPhones.

Many moons ago I worked as both a DVD author and video editor in a music post production company. One of the best things about the job was that I learned a great deal about audio mastering and production.

I was lucky enough to be working with three extremely talented audio engineers; Ian Shepherd, Gareth Williams and Simon Murphy. I caught up with them the other day and the conversation soon turned to audio technology, and I happily sat back to soak up all of their knowledge and opinions.

They discussed Dolby Atmos® Sound – have you heard of it? I first read about the technology a few years ago.

Image by Felipe Bustillo - Unsplash

It’s basically the experience of 3D sound and has infinite creative possibilities for sound design – a really exciting development.

You can even listen in binaural sound on headphones, or speakers if you have the correct sound set-up.

So, in basic terms, the cinema has moved from:

1) Mono sound – one audio channel

2) Stereo – two audio channels

3) 5.1 Surround-Sound, where the room is split into two halves to try and move the audio around the theatre.

4) 7.1 Surround-Sound, where the room is split into four sections to try and gain further movement around the theatre.

Now we have Dolby Atmos® Sound, which moves away from audio channels and instead moves the audio through many speakers, called a pan-through array. Speakers are placed around the theatre including above people’s heads, giving more precision of movement of sound.

Everything is mixed down to a single file – mind blowing, isn't it?!

This means it can be used now in our own homes, whether that be watching a film, listening to music or gaming.

Why am I talking about this?

Well, it’s just a step up in storytelling!

The technology puts you right in the action, making the sound fully immersive in 360 degrees. Sounds are manipulated so they appear to be travelling all around you, getting closer and moving away.

These soundscapes make the experience much more emotional and captivating for the listener. It really heightens the experience and it must be a joy for the writers and directors of these movies that this technology can pull the viewer further into the story and identify and empathise with the characters even more. A reason to definitely watch movies at a cinema that has the full Dolby Atmos® Sound set-up around the theatre for the ultimate movie experience.

Hearing the roar of military aircraft rush past your head, a clash of swords echoing out in a battle scene, rope being wrapped slowly around the hero by a villain, a crack of thunder across the sky then rain falling down after the protagonist realises his wife is leaving him... Image by Peter Pryharsk - Unsplash

Dolby Atmos® Sound has been in many cinema theatres for a number of years, but can now be experienced in your own home!

Check out the sound on the trailer for The Batman – and remember your headphones!

Sometimes, the simpler audio tracks are the ones where you can hear the effect better!

Check this one out from the Dolby YouTube Channel.

And this one too!

It’s awesome how the sound travels around your head, isn’t it?

It is complicated, as you need to really listen to it on the correct system, but you get the idea!

Watching programmes and movies on Apple TV, the sound can also change as you move your head!

There are also all the creative possibilities with music and this amazing binaural sound and a lot of artists are now wanting their albums mixed for Dolby Atmos® Sound.

Each instrument can be plucked out and given its own space and can be moved in any direction.

It can make the listener feel that they are right in the recording studio or front of stage at a gig!

Image by Joseph Pearson - Unsplash

Going back to the conversation I had with my audio mates – we were discussing all of the old classic albums and how they could be remixed and mastered for Dolby Atmos® Sound.

This puts a heavy responsibility on the audio engineers that are giving classic albums such as Abbey Road, Ziggy Stardust, Purple Rain and Rumours a new life. As I type this there will be engineers across the globe creating these new versions of well-loved movies and albums.

I mean – mind blowing!

If you have AirPods and can listen to Apple Music on an iPhone, I would recommend checking out What's Going On by Marvin Gaye.

The engineer has done a fantastic job creating this spacial music track for Apple.

You can also find the track on Apple Music's website here...

Dolby Atmos® Sound will probably become the standard audio file that we will listen to in the future, like Stereo is now. I may be editing videos soon that will demand this superior sound!

Isn’t it amazing when new technology is produced to enhance the creative and emotional experience?

My technical knowledge is limited, but if you want to deep dive further into this technology then I would recommend listening to Ian Shepherd's The Mastering Show podcast.


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