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Will Dolby's New Atmos 62.2 Format Redefine Surround Sound? 298

Posted by timothy
from the wait-'til-they-remaster-top-gun dept.
CIStud writes "Anyone who goes to see Pixar's new animated Brave film might come home with their ears ringing. Why? because Brave is the debut of Dolby Lab's new 62.2 surround sound format called Atmos, which adds new developments such as pan-through array and overhead speakers. With 62 speakers and 2 subwoofers, only a handful of theaters nationwide will be able to show the film at its full throttle. Dolby has produced a new highly informative video that talks about how movie sound has progressed from mono to stereo to LCR (left/center/right) to 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound and now Atmos. The big question is will the 62.2 format system be adapted for home theaters intent on emulating the immersive movie experience?" I've seen some busy input/output panels on home stereo equipment, but 62 channels is too many for my interconnect budget. Still, overhead sound seems like a good idea for some kinds of movie.
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Will Dolby's New Atmos 62.2 Format Redefine Surround Sound?

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  • ...overkill...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raydobbs (99133) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:38PM (#40413921) Homepage Journal

    Why does this remind me of the spoof commercial I saw somewhere for the 12 blade facial razor, for the ultimate in close shaves? The thing looked like a damn textbook attached to a Bic razor handle. 62 speakers sound like extreme overkill in any environment outside a professional theater.

    • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:42PM (#40413967)

      Yeah, but just price the system at around $10-15 thousand and it'll be viewed as a bargain to the audiophile crowd. They'll make a good killing off those morons.

      • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:44PM (#40414011)

        Oh and it has to also use 64-bit/384kHz sound otherwise the superharmonic resonance won't be perfect.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          64/384? Please only a deaf luddite would use something so crude. Everyone knows the new standard of sound is a Z-bit / 300-Terahertz is the new standard.

          • by BobNET (119675)

            PCM audio?! Oh, my ears are bleeding! No, it'll be 64 synchronized turntables (MONO, of course) for the analog warmth you can only get from vinyl.

      • Re:...overkill...? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by smooth wombat (796938) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:50PM (#40414089) Homepage Journal
        They'll make a good killing off those morons.

        And that's before you include the Monster cables.
      • Re:...overkill...? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by cpu6502 (1960974) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:57PM (#40414205)

        Yes it's overkill.
        It's just a damn movie (or TV show). Especially since most of the sound isn't even real. It's just guys in a studio banging on drums and other crap to insert footsteps, closing doors, and other fake effects.

        • Re:...overkill...? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gstoddart (321705) on Friday June 22, 2012 @02:05PM (#40414291) Homepage

          Especially since most of the sound isn't even real. It's just guys in a studio banging on drums and other crap to insert footsteps, closing doors, and other fake effects.

          It's still 'real' sound. In your average scene in the movie, pretty much none of the audio was recorded at the same time as the image. Especially for pretty much anything in a Pixar film for example.

          I must say, I have a hard time disagreeing that 62 channels of audio isn't just a tad much. This sounds like something they're building because they can, not because it's going to make a real improvement in the movie experience. I can't see this being something which can be applied meaningfully to home setups.

          Though, I bet some of the demos could be pretty cool as they revolve a sound source around you and other whiz-bang stuff which takes advantage of directionality of sound.

          • I can't see this being something which can be applied meaningfully to home setups.

            Maybe thats the point, trying to give cinema's an advantage?

            • by gstoddart (321705)

              Maybe thats the point, trying to give cinema's an advantage?

              No, the point is to give Dolby an advantage, and make sure more cinemas are buying their stuff.

              It just remains to be seen if the cinemas will pony up for something like this.

          • Yes, it's overkill. However, it would allow film makers to precisely place sounds in a 3D landscape. If 3D ends up being the fad we think it is, it would be an expensive upgrade for the movie theater with no real benefit.

          • by Relayman (1068986)

            Especially for pretty much anything in a Pixar film for example.

            Surely you understand how they "film" a Pixar movie, don't you? (My silliness detector is set to high today.)

          • by iluvcapra (782887)

            Especially for pretty much anything in a Pixar film for example.

            We usually don't use the live sound for an animated film. Nowadays all you get are mouse clicks.

            Simpsons did it: "Animated programs are rarely aired live, it's very hard on the animator's wrists."

      • by minio (1640735)
        Actually, most audiphiles I know consider anything beyond 2.0 setup a blasphemy.
        • Not just audiophiles. I keep around an old 2.0 system for music. A home theater is good for movies and TV, but for music I really dislike subwoofers (as many people do). So it's the 5.1 in the living room, along with an old standard '70s setup with two 3-way towers with 10" woofers.

      • by Verunks (1000826)

        Yeah, but just price the system at around $10-15 thousand and it'll be viewed as a bargain to the audiophile crowd. They'll make a good killing off those morons.

        only if the optical cable is gold plated

    • I remember a Saturday Night Live joke commercial, but here is a different one from Mad TV [youtube.com].

    • Re:...overkill...? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jonnythan (79727) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:43PM (#40413977) Homepage

      It certainly is, but two points:

      1) It will be astonishingly awesome in a professional theater.

      2) No matter how many independent channels you've recorded or mixed for a pro theater, you can always downmix them to fit your personal theater layout. It's not as possible to as effectively upmix from fewer to more channels.

      So by all means mix movies in 62.2 sound! Then give us Blu-ray discs with 7 surround channels, four ceiling channels, and two sub channels.

      • Re:...overkill...? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Russ1642 (1087959) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:53PM (#40414141)
        The vast majority of home theater setups have the rear speakers positioned terribly. Many people want their seating as far back as possible so they put the back speakers up high where you can only hear them through reflection off the front wall anyways. This problem is worse when extra side speakers come into play.
        • Re:...overkill...? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jonnythan (79727) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:54PM (#40414161) Homepage

          That's true, but either way I don't want the capabilities available to me for my properly set-up home theater to be limited by what morons do in their own homes ;)

          • by Russ1642 (1087959)
            Well if you want 10+ channels of sound I just can't see it being popular enough among consumers that they'd go through the extra effort of releasing movies this way. Same can be said for high resolution. Many people would like movies released in higher detail than 1080p but that's what you're stuck with.
            • by jonnythan (79727)

              You can go to Best Buy right now and pick up a hundred Blu-ray discs that already have 8 channels of lossless audio (7.1) on them.

              With the move to 4K looking like it's going to happen this decade, don't be surprised when the successor to BD will have 9.1 or even 11.2 audio, with support for 1-4 overhead channels.

              • The 'move' to 4k will be GLACIAL.
                • by jmorris42 (1458) *

                  > The 'move' to 4k will be GLACIAL.

                  Doubt it. Sales of LCD TVs dropped for the first time. And average selling price is too low for anyone to be making serious coin. They can put 1920x1080 displays on phones now. Ok, if you stretch the definition of 'phone' to a 5" screen. You know what that all adds up to?

                  It is time for another upgrade cycle to begin. As always it is a chicken and the egg but most recent movies are already available in 4k since that is what they ship to the local megaplex with a di

    • Im sure that 62.2 is not saying there are 64 different channels but that they 64 different "driver cabinets" to ensure that a decent sound image is available to everybody in the room.

      btw does anybody know of a Free(ish) program to map and correct the sound field in a room??

      • Dolby's marketing says '64 discrete speaker feeds'.

      • Why yes, this is a "2.1" system. Everything below 250 Hz gets routed to the four inch subwoofer. LFE? What's that?

      • by plover (150551) *

        Im sure that 62.2 is not saying there are 64 different channels but that they 64 different "driver cabinets" to ensure that a decent sound image is available to everybody in the room.

        Then go watch the video in TFA. There are indeed 64 different channels. But the guy was talking about two different concepts. The first was they're treating sounds as objects, which makes me think the individual theater's system will be responsible for the custom mapping of object locations to that theater's particular speaker array. The other was that the movie would ship with a sound "container", which would contain not only the sound objects, but professional downmixes to 22.1, 11.1, 7.1, 5.1, 4.0 an

    • 62 speakers sound like extreme overkill in any environment outside a professional theater.

      Professional Theater? Like the multiplex down the road?

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Why does this remind me of the spoof commercial I saw somewhere for the 12 blade facial razor, for the ultimate in close shaves? The thing looked like a damn textbook attached to a Bic razor handle. 62 speakers sound like extreme overkill in any environment outside a professional theater.

      And never mind this is a completely digitally produced picture, with all sound coming from in the studio/electronics somewhere.

      • by djbckr (673156)

        And never mind this is a completely digitally produced picture, with all sound coming from in the studio/electronics somewhere.

        I think the voices started out as humans...

    • by Tom (822)

      Uh, it is intended for theaters. I don't see even the slightest hint towards home use in the video nor article.

    • by Gilmoure (18428)

      Funny. Switched to a safety razor with one blade, after using the 3 blade cartridges for years. Saves just as well and am not getting shaving bumps/skin irritation like I used to.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      What I don't understand is why we need multiple speakers when we only have two ears.

      • Re:...overkill...? (Score:5, Informative)

        by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Friday June 22, 2012 @03:34PM (#40415515) Homepage

        Because ears are a miracle of engineering, and the signal processing the brain does is similarly brilliant. The shape of the pinner - the fleshy bit - means that sounds sound different if they get into your ear canal from different directions - otherwise (and I used to wonder this as a kid) how could you tell whether a sound source was directly ahead or directly behind?

        As I recall, your brain can also use the tiny timing difference (on the order of 1/3000s) to determine distance and direction

        You can fake all of this with just two speakers (the virtual haircut is highly recommended: http://onemansblog.com/2007/05/13/get-your-virtual-haircut-and-other-auditory-illusions/ [onemansblog.com]), but only if the two speakers are completely isolated to each ear - i.e., through the use of headphones. And then you have to resort to a "one size fits all" mix. They record these things using dummy heads with realistic inner and outer ears - brilliantly simple.

        If you tried to do the same thing with two external speakers, both ears would hear both speakers and the effect is ruined.

  • by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:39PM (#40413925) Homepage Journal

    send....more.....speaker.........wire.

  • Volume (Score:5, Funny)

    by ongelovigehond (2522526) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:40PM (#40413943)

    But does the volume go to eleven ?

    • by plover (150551) *

      But does the volume go to eleven ?

      I'm sure it goes to 11.1

      Anyway, I can't wait to hear the new version of the Dolby introduction. I just hope they'll be able to replace my shattered eyeglasses before the feature film starts.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:43PM (#40413997)
    If someone starts making rips of this, it will probably be the first time that the video bit rate will be dwarfed by audio bit rate. PC playback put aside, I don't see any chance of consumer hardware being produced to play back that many channels, which means media won't be released for this system, which means any source for this sound will probably be questionable in origin. So I don't think anyone will need to worry about the necessity of upgrading their home theaters in near future.
  • It'll work (Score:4, Funny)

    by mostlyIT (1929110) on Friday June 22, 2012 @01:47PM (#40414039)
    As long as you connect it with this http://www.amazon.com/Denon-AKDL1-Dedicated-Link-Cable/dp/B000I1X6PM [amazon.com]
    • Even audiophiles laugh at that crap.

      I seriously wonder how many they actually produced. I guess when somebody buys one, they cut some regular Cat.5E, add the fancy stuff and sell it for 5.000 times the cost, if not more.

  • After a bit of digging, I found a list of the Atmos locations, and it's barely a handful:

    http://www.dolby.com/us/en/professional/technology/cinema/dolby-atmos.html#Locations [dolby.com]

    If you're on the US east coast, there doesn't look to be a theatre between New Jersey and Florida ... so most of us won't get a chance to find out if it's worth it. (and as one of those people w/ poor vision ... this I'd be interested in ... 3D video, not so much)

  • *sound of crickets*
    Didn't think so. Best forgotten anyway.
    • sq
      qs
      cd4

      remember it well.

      shibata stylii, also.

      GLAD ITS GONE, NOW!

      no need for multichannel in my setup, btw. I design and build my own stereo gear and with a well done 2.1 implementation, multichannel just seems like old quad, to me. I rejected it back then and still do, for home use. a VERY well done 2.1 system is still a nicer less distracting audio system and is less costly and easier on the room, too. extra spkrs and wires, at home, really is absurd and pretty much unneeded.

      my movies get downmixed to

  • Gimmick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ichthus (72442) on Friday June 22, 2012 @02:06PM (#40414321) Homepage
    Yet another gimmick to try to get people to return to the theaters. And again, we all say, "Just make better movies."
    • by Ryanrule (1657199)

      But I am le tired...

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      6 minutes into the short video:

      "For theater owners their primary concern is always "How can i get more people to come to my theater?"
      With this better technology of surround sound and sound over the audiences that now gives them something to leverage bringing people back into the theater"

      Like you said, a gimmick.
      IMAX branded screens didn't bring movie goers rushing back into theaters
      3D hasn't brought movie goers rushing back into theaters.
      Digital projection hasn't brought movie goers rushing back into theaters.
      And a more immersive sound system isn't going to bring movie goers rushing back into theaters.

      The movie industry has a problem: growing profits vs killing the market.
      They control ticket prices, so they control the way this story ends.

    • by plover (150551) *

      No, they do have pretty good movies, but they fill the theaters with worse neighbors. In a theater, I have to sit next to people I would change seats on a bus to get away from. Seriously, you don't need a squalling 3-year-old in a stroller at an R movie, or to post the plot on Facebook as it unfolds, or to repeat the dialog to your buddy in the seat next to you.

    • by djbckr (673156)
      "Brave" might very well be a better movie. The visuals that I've seen so far look amazing. Of course the subject matter is what matters most. Let's hope it lives up to the ads. I have seen some "better" movies from time-to-time.
    • The unfortunate truth is that sound in most theaters, while clear enough to understand, is usually not making the most of the existing 7.1 format.

      This new format won't help a thing without strict rules for room setup. The current THX and Dolby certifications mean nothing. We need something new. Anyone who frequents ArcLight or other premium theaters can tell you it's night & day when it's set up right.

  • ...ought to be enough for anybody.

    Ambisonics [wikipedia.org]
  • This reminds me of the story of Magic Alex from the Beatles Anthology. He was an electronics geek friend of the band back when they were burning through money via their company, Apple that designed a revolutionary 16 track recording studio for the band in late 1968. The control room contained 16 little speakers, one for each track. It was a travesty in every other send of electrical and audio engineering, based on claims from the EMI audio engineers who patiently waited for their chance to step back in rest

  • Imagine how many gold plated Monster Cables are they gonna sell?? We're all in the wrong business!

  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Friday June 22, 2012 @02:18PM (#40414469) Homepage Journal

    The Sontarans are going to get Atmos installed everywhere and use it to kill off people who get in their way and then, finally, use the large number of installed systems to poison our atmosphere so they can use the Earth as a cloning facility! ...See, it's a Doctor Who reference. I like that show.

  • First of all, the video is only on the screen in front of you. It's like a window (the real thing, not a Redmond POS) into the "world" the movie is presenting. So how in heck would sounds from that world emanate from above or behind you? I find it quite distracting.
    Second: "natural" sounds like speech, the car driving down a road in the video, or the orchestra performing on stage (in the video) are not all that localized, and don't need to be. We see the image and locate the sound source to match. Putti

    • by jonnythan (79727)

      When there's a sound occurring off-screen, like an explosion or helicopter, how do you intend to handle that? Just have the sound come from the exact same place as the on-screen dialog, even though that doesn't make any logical sense?

      How about environmental sounds like rain, airplane cabin drone, echoes, etc?

      Surround sound exists for a reason.

  • Two channels for subs? Why? Bass is non directional. It's one thing to have multiple subs on one channel, but it doesn't make sense to have a 2nd channel.

    • by kimvette (919543)

      Having two subwoofer channels is a good thing - if the .2 channels are discrete (a .1 and a .1, or L/R if you will) then you can get cleaner bass. If the source material provides a .1 channel, having two subs allows you to achieve a 6dB to 10dB (depending on placement - take advantage of acoutic coupling with the walls and put the woofers a half wavelength apart and you can achieve a 10dB increase in output) increase in volume very easily. Also, bass is not totally nondirectional, so there is some audible d

  • >Still, overhead sound seems like a good idea for some kinds of movie.

    What kind of movie would that be? I already think the surround audio is overdoing it, since your attention is supposed to be right at the screen, not wondering what's behind you.

    Recently watched Naussica Of The Valley Of Wind in a local theater, and I'm not sure the sound was even stero; all sound seemed to come from speakers behind the screen. But I didn't care, because it was an awesome movie, with good visuals and audio effects. Som

  • by iluvcapra (782887) on Friday June 22, 2012 @02:21PM (#40414507)

    I've seen some busy input/output panels on home stereo equipment, but 62 channels is too many for my interconnect budget. Still, overhead sound seems like a good idea for some kinds of movie.

    That's not how this system works, it supports "up to" 62 channels in the encoded signal; these are panned with metadata in the channel bitstream, and then the decoder in the theater (or home) does the math of placing the sound in the space, using prior knowledge of how many speakers you have, and their position in the room. "62.2" doesn't mean 64 speakers, it means that the format supports "up to" that many, and the theater might not have that many actual channels wired, or it might have significantly more if it's a large room, or significantly less -- they can add more speakers to get more directional resolution.

    62.2 also doesn't imply that the guy who mixed the thing was using more than 5 or 6. I'm a sound designer in Los Angeles -- just finished Men in Black 3, starting Zero Dark Thirty in a few weeks, and this is the first time I've heard of any of this. This sort of system will require software support from workstation and console vendors, and I'm dubious people will be using it for some time, even though it promises great backwards-compatiblity.

    This system appears to be an attempt to get ambisonic-like flexibility without the costs of ambisonics, principally, ambisonic encoding's inability to cope with pan divergence, the problem of "how do I send the same sound to the left and right side of the rooms simultaneously, without it going anywhere else?" It's impossible to do this in ambisonics without adding tons of second-order channels and playing with signal phase. This system might also suffer from one of ambisonic's other problems, namely, it may rely on extremely accurate speaker placement and speaker placement information.

    This system also appears to be a shot across the bow of IOSONO [iosono-sound.com], which is a very different process that achieves high horizontal fidelity through a completely different technique of dubious creative utility.

    Note- IMAX has overhead sound as well, or at least a "screen-top" channel, but lacks a subwoofer channel and only has point-source surround speakers.

  • Does this mean I have to upgrade from my year-old-still-unscratched 9.2 receiver already?!

  • Haven't been to the theater in years (I guess when Return of the King came out). I was under the impression that movie theaters had more than 7.1 discrete speakers.

    Why haven't theaters progressed beyond the sound setups available to home aficionados decades ago? Or am I missing something?

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday June 22, 2012 @02:23PM (#40414527) Homepage

    I've heard this at Dolby's screening room in SF. It looks like a modest auditorium. It's really a money-is-no-object demo facility. Before a talk on another subject, the Dolby guys couldn't resist showing off. They had a video game with many directional sound outputs hooked into the room's systems, and you could hear the players moving around in the space, behind and above the audience when appropriate. You really can hear somebody sneaking up on you in-game from a platform above you.

    It's an experience to hear many-channel sound in a facility like that, but few (if any) commercial theaters are that good acoustically. Unless the room acoustics are very, very good, all those channels won't help much.

  • I want something close to this for gaming! It'd be nice to play ANYTHING with a high-level of detail to ambient sounds.
  • a use for 216-pin Harting connectors in my living room.

  • by somenickname (1270442) on Friday June 22, 2012 @02:36PM (#40414729)

    Home theaters are generally setup in small enough rooms that even a 5.1 system is very immersive. Having upgraded from 5.1 to 7.1 to 9.2 in the last year, the immersiveness has improved but, it's incremental enough that I can't imagine and wouldn't even encourage most people bothering with it. Having extra speakers on the z and y axises (height and wide channels) will make some movie scenes more impressive but, in general, it's ambient noises that come out of those channels and, if you already have a properly setup and calibrated 5.1 system with even moderately priced speakers, most of the time you won't notice much of a difference.

    As for having speakers on the ceiling, that's completely pointless for a home theater. Having height channels (PLIIz/DSX/DTS:Neo) a few feet above your front speakers is sufficient to give your ear the impression that things are happening directly above you. Just like side surrounds can play phase tricks on your ears to make you think something is happening directly behind you, height channels can make things sound like they are directly above you. And this technology is already available on mid-priced 7.1 receivers.

  • Ahem... Sixty-four speakers. Don't forget about the subs.

  • by RendonWI (958388) on Friday June 22, 2012 @04:52PM (#40416431)
    Since the post goes to a blog that contains no information here is a link to Dolby talking about it. Why would this link not be in the article? http://www.dolby.com/us/en/professional/technology/cinema/dolby-atmos.html [dolby.com]

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