If you’re going to see Brave this weekend (which you should be doing), and you happen to be in one of a few lucky cities, you could be one of the first to experience Dolby’s brand new theatrical surround sound system, Dolby Atmos. I got to check out the new system at a showing of Brave at the SilverCity Yonge and Eglinton in Toronto, and the results are quite impressive. First off, the system is loud. Very loud. But it’s also the first time outside of an IMAX theatre where I’ve heard a sound system be this loud without also losing fidelity. This has everything to do with the way Atmos is designed.
If you’re unfamiliar with how surround sound in theatres generally works, well, let me give you a primer. Theatres have operated with what’s called 5.1 surround for a few decades now, and recently have been upgrading to a 7.1 system. Those numbers are simply an indication of how many separate audio channels a system can support. 5.1 has one subwoofer channel and five regular speaker channels; one in the centre, two on either side and two more on the sides of the cinema. There are often multiple speakers on the sides as well as the back walls, but these all share the same two channels of sound. 7.1 is effectively the same, except that it adds two more channels specifically for the back. A sound mixer on a movie now has control of a more full environment of sound. Dolby Atmos takes that control to a whole new level. Atmos can support up to 128 channels of sound plugged into up to 64 speakers. You don’t need to be good at math to know that’s a huge difference. Click to read more.