Tag Archives: Atmos

Dolby Cinema combines 
HDR video, immersive surround sound

By Mel Lambert

In addition to its advances in immersive surround sound, culminating in the new object-based Atmos format for theatrical and consumer playback, Dolby remains committed to innovating video solutions for the post and digital cinema communities.

Leveraging video technologies developed for high-resolution video monitors targeted at on-location, colorist and QC displays, the company also has been developing Dolby Cinema, which combines proprietary high dynamic range (HDR) Dolby Vision with Dolby Atmos immersive sound playback.

The first Dolby Cinema installations comprise a joint venture with AMC Entertainment — the nation’s second-largest theater chain — and, according AMC’s EVP of US operations, John McDonald, the companies are planning to unveil up to 100 such “Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime” theaters around the world within the next decade. To date, approximately a dozen such premium large format (PLF) locations have opened in the US and Europe.

Dolby Vision requires two specially modified, HDR Christie Digital 4K laser projectors, together with state-of-the-art optics and image processing, to provide an HDR output with light levels significantly greater than conventional Xenon digital projectors. Dolby Vision’s HDR output, with enhanced color technology, has been lauded by filmmakers for its enhanced contrast, high brightness and gamut range that is said to more closely match human vision.

Unique to the Dolby Vision projection system, beyond its brightness and vivid color reproduction, is its claimed ability to deliver HDR images with an extended contrast ratio that exceeds any other image technology currently on the market. The result is described by Dolby as a “richer, more detailed viewing experience, with strikingly vivid and realistic images that transport audiences into a movie’s immersive world.”

During a recent system demo at AMC16 in Burbank, Doug Darrow, Dolby’s SVP of Cinema, said, “Today’s movie audiences have an insatiable appetite for experiences. They want to be moved, and they want to feel [the on-screen action]. The combination of our Dolby Vision technology and Dolby Atmos offers audiences an immersive audio-video experience.”

The new proprietary system offers up to 31-foot-Lamberts of screen brightness for 2D Dolby Vision content, more than twice the 14 fL required by the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) specification.

Recent films released in Dolby Cinema include Sony’s The Perfect Guy; Paramount’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation; Fox’s Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials; Fox’s The Martian, Warner’s Pan; and Universal’s’ Everest. Upcoming releases include Warner’s In the Heart of the Sea; Lionsgate’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2 and Disney’s The Jungle Book.

During a series of endorsement videos shown at the Burbank showcase, Wes Ball, director of Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, said, “It’s the only way I want to show movies.”

The new theatrical presentation format fits into existing post workflows, according to Stuart Bowling, Dolby’s director of content and creative relations. “Digital cameras are capable of capturing images with tremendous dynamic range that is suitable for Dolby Vision, which is capable of delivering a wide P3 color gamut. Laser projection can also extend the P3 color space to exceed Rec. 2020 [ITU-R Recommendation BT.2020], which is invaluable for animation and VFW. For now, however, we will likely see filmmakers stay within the P3 gamut.”

For enhanced visual coverage, the large-format screens extend from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, with matte-back side wall and fittings to reduce ambient light scattering that can easily diminish the HDR experience. “Whereas conventional presentations offer maybe 2,000:1 contrast ratios,” Bowling stressed, “Dolby Vision offers 1,000,000:1 [dynamic range], with true, inky blacks.”

Mel Lambert is principal of Content Creators, an LA-based copywriting and editorial service. He can be reached at mel.lambert@content-creators.com. Follow him on Twitter @MelLambertLA.

IBC 2015 Blog: HDR displays

By Simon Ray

It was an interesting couple of days in Amsterdam. I was hoping to get some more clarity on where things were going with the High Dynamic Range concept in both professional and consumer panels, as well as delivery mechanisms to get it to the consumers. I am leaving IBC knowing more, but no nearer a coherent idea as to exactly where this is heading.

I initially visited Dolby to get an update on Dolby Vision (our main image), see where they were with their Dolby Vision technology and most importantly get my reserved tickets for the screening of Fantastic Four in the Auditorium (Laser Projection and Dolby Atmos). It all sounded very positive with news of a number of consumer panel manufacturers being close to releasing Dolby Vision-capable TVs. For example, Vizio with their Reference Series panel and streaming services like VUDU streaming Dolby Vision HDR content, although this is just in the USA to begin with. I also had my first look at a Dolby “Quantum Dot” HDR display panel, which did look good and surely has the best name of any tech out here.

There are other HDR offerings out there with Amazon Prime having announced in August that they will be streaming HDR content in the UK, but not initially in the Dolby Vision format (HDR video is available with the Amazon Instant Video app for Samsung SUHD TVs like the JS9000, JS9100 and JS9500 series) and selected LG TVs (G9600 and G9700 series) and the “big” TV manufacturers have or are about to launch HDR panels. So far so good.

Pro HDR Monitors
Things got bit more vague again when I started looking into HDR-equipped professional panels for color correction. There are only two I could find in the show: Sony had an impressive HDR-ready panel connected to a Filmlight BaseLight tucked away on their large stand in Hall 12; and Canon, who had their equally impressive prototype display tucked away in Hall 11 connected to a SGO Mistika. Both displays had different brightness specs and gamma options.


When I asked some other manufacturers about their HDR panels the response was the same: “We are going to wait until the specifications are finalized before committing to an HDR monitor.” This leaves me to think this is a bad time to be buying a monitor. You are either going to buy an HDR monitor now, which may not be correct to the final specifications, or you are going to be buying a non-HDR monitor that is likely to be superseded in the near future.

Another thing I noticed was that the professional HDR panels were all being shown off in a carefully (or as carefully as a trade show allows) light environment to give them the best opportunity to make an impact. Any ambient light getting into the viewing environment is going to detract from the benefits of having the increased dynamic range and brightness of the HDR display, which I imagine might be a problem in the average living room. I hope this does not reduce the chance of this technology making an impact because it is great to see images seemingly having more depth and quality to them. As a representative on the Sony stand said, “It feels more immersive — I am so much more engaged in the picture.”


The problem of the ambient light was also picked up on in an interesting talk in the Auditorium as part of the “HDR: From zero to infinity” series. There were speakers from iMax, Dolby, Barco and Sony talking about the challenges of bringing HDR to the cinema. I had come across the idea of HDR in cinema from Dolby through their “Dolby Cinema” project, which brings together HDR picture and immersive sound with Dolby Atmos.

I am in the process of building a theatre to mix theatrical soundtracks in Dolby Atmos, but despite the exciting opportunities for sound that Atmos offers the sound teams, in the UK at least the take up by Cinemas is slow. One of the best things about Dolby Atmos for me is that if you go to see a film in Atmos, you know that the speaker system is going to be of a certain standard, otherwise Dolby would not have given it Atmos status. For too long, cinemas have been allowed to let the speaker systems wear down to the point where it becomes unlistenable. If these new initiatives can give cinemas an opportunity to reinvest in the equipment (and the various financial implications and challenges and who would meet these costs were discussed) and get a return on that investment it could be a chance to stop the rot and improve the cinema going experience. And, importantly, for us in post it gives us an exciting high bench mark to be aiming for when working on films.

Simon Ray is head of operations and engineering Goldcrest Post Production in London.

‘Inside Out’: Skywalker helps hug the audience with sound

Pixar’s latest gets a Dolby Atmos mix

By Jennifer Walden

Ever ask yourself what goes through a child’s mind? Well, Pixar did, and the result was their latest Inside Out, which has left audiences laughing and crying. The film focuses on 11-year-old Riley, whose emotions are sent reeling as her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco.

The story, by directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen, portrays five main emotions: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear — which hang out in the control room of people’s minds. The audience gets to experience Riley’s tumultuous transition through the actions of those five core emotions as they interact inside her mind. They get to see a bit of how her mom and dad’s minds work too. It’s a refreshingly creative animated feature like no other.

Inside Out has two main environments: inside the mind where everything is hyper-real, and out in the world, where everything seems dull by comparison. “We wanted to have the sound mimic that and to follow the actions they took with the picture,” says re-recording mixer Michael Semanick, who handled the sound effects, backgrounds and music for Inside Out.

Michael Semanick

Since the film’s sound — created at Skywalker Sound in Marin County, California — was designed and mixed natively in Dolby Atmos, Semanick and fellow re-recording mixer Tom Johnson, on dialogue/Foley, were able to heighten that difference further by only using the upfront speakers during scenes in the outside world, and the full array of speakers in the Atmos set-up during scenes inside the mind. “We made a conscious decision to have the outside world sound flat, with nothing in the surrounds or the top speakers,” says Semanick.

For inside the mind, sound designer Ren Klyce designed rich backgrounds and elements that could be used in the surrounds and the overhead speakers to fill out the space without being gimmicky or distracting. “For example, Ren had designed these really great water sounds that are, I believe, babies in the womb. They are these cool, inside-the-body-type sounds. I got to move those back and forth and over the top when we’re in the head. It’s very subtle. It’s not meant to be distracting but it’s supposed to give you this feeling like you are inside the mind, and that it’s alive and moving.”

All-Around Sound
With the full-range speakers in the Atmos set-up, Semanick could fluidly move sounds around the theater without having to account for the level dips and EQ differences typical of the surrounds used in 5.1/7.1 set-ups. So when Joy and Sadness get sucked up a memory tube, Semanick was able to fly Klyce’s sound design elements past the viewer without losing low-end detail. “With the Atmos, I can move the sound anywhere and I don’t have to push the level to get the sound to read in the back,” says Semanick.

Additionally, the full-range overhead speakers in the Atmos set-up allowed Semanick to bring sounds in from above, and seemingly move them down the screen. For example, there are memory balls (small, clear balls containing Riley’s memories) that come down from over the top and project light, almost as if they are playing a movie. Since the sound was designed from the ground up in Atmos, Semanick was able to take individual sound elements for that scene and assign them to object panners on the AMS Neve DFC mixing console used in the Kurosawa Studio.

Another advantage to the Atmos set-up was it allowed re-recording mixer Johnson and director Docter to experiment with how they could treat the voices coming from inside Riley’s head. “We didn’t want it to be a standard voiceover. We wanted it to feel like we are inside of this girl’s mind,” says Semanick. “So in the Atmos mix, the first time Joy speaks, it really fills the room up all around you. Then eventually, as she keeps speaking, her voice starts to pull forward and it gets set in a place that is very comfortable, so you realize that this is Joy speaking.”

There are different areas inside the mind, such as the control room where the five emotions interact and decide Riley’s course of action, long-term memory: abstract thought, the subconscious, the memory dump of forgotten memories and the dream studio, which resembles a film stage. Semanick used a combination of stereo reverbs, such as the Lexicon 960 and the TC 6000, to help define those spaces. The control room, with its large windows, has a slight room reverb while the halls of long-term memory are vaster. The reverbs in the subconscious are dark to match the mood of the environment. “We match the reflections to the space,” says Semanick. “When we’re in the canyon of the memory dump area; it’s like an infinite abyss, so the sound has an echo. It’s like looking into the Grand Canyon but you can’t see the bottom. Sometimes I would hit the echo and then fade the reflections quickly, as if they just disappeared into that abyss and then there is no sound. You don’t know if an object is still falling or not.”

Semanick prefers to use several stereo reverbs together to build out the spaces for the Atmos set-up, as opposed to using pre-built multichannel reverbs. “With the stereo reverb or mono reverb, I know how I can place them. I can side-chain them. I can have the reflections build,” he explains. “I can use multiple stereo reverbs and have something different on the top, in the front and in the back. I can manipulate each one separately. I can push the rears louder than I push the fronts, so the reflection comes off a little quicker.”


Semanick really enjoyed mixing the emotional scenes in Inside Out, particularly in the memory dump where Joy and Riley’s old imaginary friend, Bing Bong, are sitting among disintegrating memory balls. “There isn’t music or any other supporting sound, just the voices from the fading memory balls. Each sound that’s placed in there is so important — from the rewind sound of the memory to Joy turning the ball over and changing hands to the balls in the background that are just disintegrating. They are so lightly touched with a little bit of musical enhancement,” he says.

“There were really great sounds for that which I got to blend in, as each ball breaks and falls into this ash. I agonized over every little flake of those balls. That scene is just so delicate and we spent a lot of time on it. The sound can just help draw the audience in even more, and wrap up their hearts, then rip them out. Those are some of the hardest things to mix, those quiet emotional scenes where every little sound is like a pin drop. When you nail it, you can see the audience’s reaction,” concludes Semanick.

IBC Blog: Audio Day


look at Avid’s S6, Dolby Atmos and more

By Simon Ray

Head of Operations & Engineering

Goldcrest London


Sound day started a bit later than picture day, but it was the day we got to look at the new S6 console from Avid.  I booked an afternoon appointment to make sure my judgment was not clouded by an HHB sponsored hangover. We were met by the usual suspects and given an excellent demo by Dave Tyler, which was nowhere near long enough, but there was still time to get an overview of the hardware and its integration with Pro Tools. Continue reading