Ok, I think I'm going out on a limb here and creating a huge debate. But this topic deserves to be debated. For those of you who haven't heard or investigated Dolby's new Atmos system, please see links at the bottom of my question.

Understandably Atmos technology may not alter the way we create, or even deliver our sounds to the mix stage. However I believe this technology provides a limitless creative landscape for the potential of what our sounds can become. And yes, more textures could be added. For instance, the 'helicopter flying over head' example could mean not only creating the sound for the vehicle itself, but it also leaves space to create more detailed imaging such as air movement, more detailed doppler effect, etc. Not to mention a more immersive environments, and sound in general.

So why do so many think this technology will flop? I agree that most people (consumers) don't know specifics about sound. And there have been a billion cases in which a theater had a blown speaker(s) and no one noticed. But honestly with 5.1 and the way it's setup, how could they? I think they'd notice if the film was in Stereo. But with 5.1 you may as well block off the room into 5 sections that blend. Atmos changes all that, and converts existing (under qualified)theater systems into much more accurate and capable ones, even without adding additional systems. I believe it has the ability to change film standards, and those of the movie goers. What common movie goer would now go to a movie theater that played their films in Stereo, after experiencing 5.1? And who then 5.1 once experiencing Atmos? (besides the extra $2.50 Atmos theaters add to their ticket price)

I'm in no way bias, or set in my opinion. I'm simply EXCITED over these possibilities. Aren't you? If not, please share with me your opinion.

Thanks guys!! I'm new to this site and I can't tell you how incredible I think it is, and how much I appreciate all your input and help.

VIDEOS : Intro to Dolby Atmos : http://soundworkscollection.com/atmos

Brave is the first film to implement Atmos Technology. Brave Special Features, Gary Rydstrom talks about mixing Brave with Atmos : http://soundworkscollection.com/brave


This document pertains to how to literally setup your theater for Atmos,


This pertains to the Vision of Atmos. What it does and also how it applies the film makers, as well as the audience.


  • Have you actually heard Dolby Atmos? the demo files? Brave? or both? – user49 Jul 3 '12 at 7:20
  • @tim No I haven't heard it yet, the closest theater that has it currently is in Los Vegas and that's about 6-7 hours from me. I'm extremely interested in the possibilities of it though. If Batman releases in Atmos I'll go see it in Vegas. – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 15:16

Having worked on a project mixed in Dolby Atmos, here’s my 2 cents for what it’s worth. And no, I don’t work for Dolby.

First, please go give Atmos a listen before you pass judgement. It is quite a promising and exciting technology, designed not to become obsolete in the next few years. While it does provide the opportunity to use the surrounds and ceiling in flashy and distracting ways, the best designers, editors, and mixers will use these new tools to heighten the storytelling and immersive experience. We as story conscious sound folk should welcome new tools, more creative mixing options, and better sounding theaters. Dolby is leading this push. As long as we use these powerful tools to serve the narrative, then by no means are they a gimmick.

A couple observations from my very, very limited Atmos experience:

  • For those of you that find over use of surround distracting, keep in mind that the technology is about more than just providing a mixer with greater ability to swirl sound around the audience (although that certainly can be done to great effect). There are 5 discreet speakers across the screen: Left, Center Left, Center, Center Right, and Right, allowing better localization/panning across the front of the theater. It is also possible to pan sounds to the first wall speaker on the left and right of the screen, making panning across the front of the theater wider and more dramatic. Off screen action sounds great in these speakers, and placing things there still keeps the audience anchored to the screen.

  • The ceiling can be used to great effect, and not just for blockbuster helicopter approaches and flying robots (although I imagine that would sound awesome). In Brave, rain is panned to the ceiling for example. It sounds amazing.

  • It is possible to pull the music slightly off of the screen out of the LR, allowing for the potential for better separation of score and effects. This is already being done in 7.1 to great effect. The surrounds in an Atmos theater are also full range, and not the weak surrounds we are often forced to listen to.

I know that many theaters still have problems playing 5.1, much less 7.1 correctly; but I, for one, hope that Atmos takes off. Maybe then, with improved sound systems in most theaters, at least we will get better sounding playback of standard 5.1 mixes; and, at best, a new format with tons of potential.

  • @Justin I can't tell you how jealous I am. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, even if it was limited experience is good to hear an opinion from someone how's heard it. To kind of add to your comment I found two interesting quotes. 1 from a review and one from an interview. The review definitely commented on the control over the front speakers and not just the rears. "When there was emotional distance between Merida and her mother, Files put their voices into objects, pointing the voices to separate speakers. Merida and her mother weren’t just separated visually on-screen; but sonically" – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 19:51
  • **who's heard it. – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 19:52
  • The other quote was pertaining to it adding to any theater's system (potentially) : "The Atmos system does the math to figure out how to make it work best in every theater it plays in. “That’s the big conceptual difference with this system — we’re getting away from the idea of putting a sound into one specific speaker, and getting more into the idea of putting it into a specific point in space,” Files said." – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 19:54
  • Quotes found here by the way : wired.com/underwire/2012/06/dolby-atmos-brave/2 – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 19:55

"But better none the less"

why do you believe this? Are you a salesman for Dolby or something?

Lets face it, it really wont make any difference at all to most of the films I see & hear, because like 3D its a platform that is aimed at big budget Hollywood tent pole movies

Just how much of an emotional drama needs to come from the ceiling or via discreet surrounds?

imho 95% of the emotional content is in LCR....

  • @tim I completely agree Tim. It most likely will be aimed at the blockbusters and coupled with 3D. By 'better none the less' I mean that even if a theater doesn't add additional speakers, Atmos takes the surround 'groups' of speakers and allows them to be accessed individually for better, more precise surround imaging. I agree that most people don't really care about the surrounds, but I think they would if the surrounds were more accurate. Currently, they take the entire rear half of a theater. haha!! No, I'm not selling it. Thanks for your feedback Tim. – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 15:21
  • "is aimed at big budget Hollywood tent pole movies" +1 Furthermore only the big cinemas will be able to afford such stuff. 3D was expensive enough for small or middle-sized cinemas and since I can imagine, that DOLBY will charge a bucket full of money each month for the usage of ATMOS (like they did before ) only big cinemas will be able to afford such stuff......and these cinemas only play those big budget movies. – Michael Manzke Jul 4 '12 at 20:30

As far as I understood the concept of Dolby Atmos, my main concern is that every cinema will tend to sound different according to their amount of speakers and how they are set up.

7.1 is absolutely enough in my opinion, on the other hand I am not a professional mixer. But sound seems to have less self-convidence since 3d is back (again).

But so far I didn't dive into that topic, so maybe you can proove me wrong.

  • That's true, since Atmos expands any theaters capabilities with their current setup the sound will be different. But better none the less. I just feel like current 5.1/7.1 setups have 2 equilibrium's (left right / front back) because of the way the surround speakers are grouped. Atmos adds 369 degrees of sound sources, plus a vertical overhead sensation IF the theater decides to expand. The cool thing as theaters can add little by little to the Atmos system. Not necessarily all at once. Again all my opinion. Thanks for your comment. – Jake Jul 2 '12 at 22:54
  • ** 360 degrees. – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 0:41

As Tim points out, this is very much aimed at the Hollywood Blockbuster market. For me the interesting aspect for this market is not emotion per se (although it may lead to greater emotional involvement), but immersion. IMO anything that can lead to "more" suspension of disbelief is a good thing. Having said that I've not heard an atoms system so for me the jury is still out on how believable it is, but I am open to the possibilities and looking forward to getting my hands on it.

  • @bit I agree with this as well. I think it would have to be added to films TASTEFULLY that call for it. I think it could be another tool to enhance large releases. The same way romantic comedies are not being released in 3D. Why would they? However Action / Adventure films, that draw you in with accurate audio representations of the environment the characters are in, would defiantly add something for myself. It depends on HOW film makers use the technology. It could flop, but I sure hope it doesn't. Thanks for your comment. – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 15:28
  • @bit jury is definitely still out. I think only the current 14 theaters (in the US) will have Atmos for 2012. It's rumored that this is a 'test period' for Atmos, and that Dolby will be campaigning in 2013 after Atmos is dialed in. – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 15:45

I'm interested to hear it out of curiosity, but I can't say that surround sound is an important thing for me in the cinema. If I hear stuff coming from the surrounds more than the screen it often takes me out of the film, and as Atmos allows you to route sounds to individual surrounds we might be getting more of that.

Having said that, perhaps having more speakers will allow more subtle use of surround. With 5.1 theaters I hate it if I'm sitting off to the side and the nearest surround feels too loud. Maybe with atmos sounds can be more evenly spread out between the speakers avoiding that problem?

There is another set of optional speakers behind the screen, so you can have L LC C RC R - curious as to how these are used, and whether this will allow more accurate L<>R panning.

On a side note, I'd be interested to know if Dolby tried out a set of raised speakers behind the screen - like upper left and upper right. I like the idea of designing sounds like atmos into upper and lower stems, but still having it come from behind the picture.

  • @Mark that's were I'm at. Personally the surrounds don't really do anything for me. Simply because they cover such a huge range. I also believe that having access to the individual speakers will greatly increase the accuracy of where film makers can place sounds. As I've mentioned many time in this forum, the surrounds take more than half a theater. And when sound gets sent to a surround channel, it goes to all the speakers in that group. I'm also curious about the front panning. I really can't wait to hear what they're capable of. Thanks Mark!! – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 15:36
  • @Mark I'm not sure if theaters already do this, but in the Atmos theater guide they say to aim the side wall surround speakers at the head of the person sitting on the far side of the theater. So it's aimed well over the nearest person's head. Do you think this will solve side speakers near you sounding too loud? I saw it in this short n sweet setup guide : dolby.com/uploadedFiles/Assets/US/Doc/Professional/… – Jake Jul 3 '12 at 15:41

I saw Life of Pi last night in Dolby Atmos at the Empire Cinema in London, and reading back over the previous answers and comments, I'm not sure which side of the fence to sit on. As neat as it was during a few moments of the film, plus the Atmos trailer at the start, the actual space of the cinema really seemed to bugger it up...

Essentially, both myself and everyone I saw it with found it bloody hard to hear the dialogue clearly due to the huge space of the room - the reverb in there was way too much. I don't know much about acoustic treatment and I'm sure it'd be an insane pain to deaden such a huge space, but surely it's futile to spend so much on a speaker system if it's being used in a room where it just can't translate the sound to the viewer properly?

The Atmos trailer before the film and the storm scene during it were both very cool, but for the most part it was hard to focus on anything else except trying to make out the dialogue... Unless there's a smaller Atmos screen introduced in Lonon, I'll probably opt for a smaller screens in smaller rooms in the future - I'd much rather have greater clarity in 5.1 over blurry audio in Atmos!


Years ago (2002?) I worked on a special mix for a film called "We Were Soldiers", I cut sound for an overhead speaker. Helicopters, bullet bys and the like. I think it only screened in one theater on a limited engagement.

I don't really know what my point is but I wanted somebody to know that I (WE) DID IT FIRST!

  • @Chris Right on! I would have loved to hear it! Since this original post the hobbit was released in atmos and theaters everywhere have opened. Of course I went to see it the first chance I got and it was INCREADIBLE. Dolby reps where even there! There were a few distracting moments during the film, but all the action scenes where clearer and atmospheres were unbeleivable. I recommend it to any audio nerd like myself! – Jake Jan 8 '13 at 19:29

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