August 11, 2014 4:00pm PT by Carolyn Giardina
Dolby Readying Atmos for the Home Come Fall
Dolby’s immersive theater sound system Atmos will be ready for the home this fall.
The iconic sound company has been working with partners to develop the consumer electronics and the content to bring Atmos — a theater system that uses "objects" rather than channels to precisely place sound around a room — to home entertainment.
More than 100 titles have already been mixed for theatrical release in Atmos, including such recent hits as Guardians of the Galaxy and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, as well as Academy Award recipients such as Gravity and Life of Pi. While Dolby has not yet announced any Atmos titles for home entertainment, the company confirmed that it has developed authoring tools that would allow a studio to prepare an Atmos theatrical mix for the home, and it is talking with studio partners about offering titles starting this fall.
Initially, the home entertainment version of Atmos will be available through supported Blu-Ray players using Dolby’s TrueHD codec and supported OTT services using Dolby Digital Plus. TrueHD and Dolby Digital Plus are getting an upgrade to accommodate the home variation of the Atmos format.
There will be various technical options for playing back Atmos in the home. The theatrical version involves speakers placed on the ceiling of an auditorium to get overhead sound, Dolby’s director of sound research Brett Crockett explained. "Height is an important part of Atmos, so we adapted that experience so that the consumer can get that in the living room or on a mobile device," he said. "For the home theater environment we’ve put together a renderer in home receivers that renders to a height plane. We also partnered with manufacturers to develop Atmos-enabled speakers. Using the ceiling, we create reflected sound that sounds like overheads."
Manufacturers who have announced Dolby Atmos AV receivers or processors include Denon, Integra, Marantz, Onkyo, Pioneer, Steinway Lyngdorf, and Yamaha. Definitive Technology announced a line of Dolby Atmos-enabled speaker modules, and Pioneer USA announced Andrew Jones Dolby Atmos enabled speakers. Onkyo also revealed a Dolby Atmos-equipped HTIB.
For mobile uses, Crockett explained that Dolby is upgrading its headphone technology "so that it takes the Atmos soundtrack and renders 3D sound including height over headphones, using virtualization technology."
Separately, Dolby has been working on a new format, Dolby Vision, to improve the images that can be viewed in the home with a wider dynamic range, meaning the range between the brightest and darkest colors that can be reproduced on a display.
While no additional information was provided, presumably Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision will at some point be offered together to create an at-home experience involving both picture and sound. The first Dolby Vision-supported TVs are expected to be available in early 2015.