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Earlier this year, Dolby Laboratories announced a new sound format that it called Dolby Atmos. Instead of just the traditional front speakers, side surrounds, and rear surround speakers (for a max total of 7 channels of sound), Dolby Atmos took sound design back to the drawing table, and turned a movie theater into the aural center of a hemisphere of sound.
Adding ceiling speakers and changing how sound is routed to all the speakers in the auditorium, Dolby Atmos allows sound designers to treat each sound element separately, and then the sound processor decides which speakers in the auditorium to use to produce each sound element so that it is placed in the right location in the "hemisphere" around the viewer/listener.
For more information about Dolby Atmos, please visit Dolby's web site: Dolby Atmos Cinema Sound Platform
The first, and so far the only, movie to utilize this fledgling sound format was Disney Pixar's Brave. Only a select number of theaters around the country were capable of playing the movie in Dolby Atmos, and the company was very mum on when their next release would be. As a result, we filed this under the category of "for demonstration purposes only."
Yesterday, the company announced that Twentieth Century Fox would be releasing not one, but two, movies this fall with Dolby Atmos soundtracks.
Taken 2 is the sequel to the surprise hit Taken, which featured Liam Neeson as a father whose daughter is kidnapped while vacationing in Paris, and he uses his "particular set of skills" as an assassin to find his daughter and exact punishment on those who took her. It was released in theaters in the uneviable January timeslot, but went on to do decent business (more than making back its modest budget) and it received a positive reaction from fans (hence the sequel). As an action movie that is sure to have chase and fight scenes, the addition of Dolby Atmos should amp up the tension and if the director has employed shaky-cam techniques, air-sickness bags might be a nice movie tie-in giveaway item!
Chasing Mavericks actually seems like a movie that could really take advantage of a soundfield taken to the next level. I can imagine that being able to place the sounds of monster waves curling over the camera should heighten the experience, and by being able to control the entire soundfield around the viewer, plunging underwater when the wave crashes could make people feel like they are struggling for the surface right along with the action on-screen!
It's good to see that two movies are being released, even if they will only be able to be shown in a few Atmos-equipped theaters. Right now, Dolby's site only lists 13 theaters in the United States as equipped with the technology, so you might not even be able to experience this new sound format until it becomes more widespread.
Sources: Dolby Laboratories web site, Dolby/Twentieth Century Fox Press Release
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