Dolby Atmos for cinema playback

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Dolby Atmos creates powerful, moving audio by introducing two important concepts to cinema sound: audio objects and overhead speakers.

Dolby Atmos for cinema playback: benefits

Fills the cinema with breathtaking sound

Sound comes from all directions, including overhead, to fill the cinema with astonishing clarity, richness, detail, and depth.

Puts sounds into motion all around you

The sounds of the onscreen story move all around you in three-dimensional space, so you feel like you're inside the action.

Creates a powerfully moving entertainment experience

It's sound that excites your senses and inspires your emotions to deliver the full impact of entertainment.

Conveys the artist's intent

Dolby Atmos® gives artists amazing new capabilities to tell their stories, accent their games, or perform their music so you can experience the power of the artist's vision. 

Freeing sound from channels — the Dolby Atmos concept

Dolby Atmos® creates powerful, moving audio by introducing two important concepts to cinema sound: audio objects and overhead speakers. Together, these completely change how soundtracks are created and heard.

Traditional surround soundtracks confine all sounds to a small set of channels that can deliver sound to you from only a few perceived angles. They cannot put sound above you. Further, sounds exist only as part of a channel mix. If one sound is emphasized in a traditional mix, another must be diminished.

In Dolby Atmos, by contrast, sound can be freed from channels. It enables artists to treat specific sounds as individual entities, called audio objects. These can be precisely placed and moved by the soundtrack creator anywhere in the cinema's three-dimensional space, though the artist can continue to use channel capabilities as desired. The Dolby Atmos cinema processor then determines which of a cinema's huge array of front, back, side, and overhead speakers it will use to recreate this lifelike movement.

As a result, a Dolby Atmos soundtrack brings alive the onscreen story as never before possible. The movie's sounds flow all around you to completely immerse you in the action, heightening the impact of the story and creating a powerfully moving cinema experience.

For information on installation requirements, check out the
Dolby Atmos specifications document

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How Dolby Atmos works its magic

A more effective speaker setup

The most immediately noticeable difference in a Dolby Atmos® system is the use of overhead speakers, but that's just part of the story.

A typical surround sound system consists of left, center, and right discrete channels with the speakers behind the screen. The surround channels are handled by wall-mounted arrays of speakers, divided acoustically into two or four zones. All speakers within a zone receive the same audio information.

In a Dolby Atmos theater, every speaker — as many as 64 total — is powered independently and gets its own separate audio feed. In effect, each speaker is its own zone. In addition to the overhead speakers, Dolby Atmos typically adds more surround speakers and screen speakers.

The improved speaker layout is a key to implementing the dramatic audio improvements of Dolby Atmos.


Sounds gain their independence

Imagine sitting in a restaurant. There's a general buzz of conversation and music all around, yet you can pick out an individual voice behind you or a clink of silverware from the terrace above you — and you can tell exactly where each sound is coming from.

Now you're watching that same restaurant scene in a movie. With conventional surround sound, you'll get the ambience, but the voice and clink come from vague locations — if you can pick them out at all. That's because channel-based sounds — particularly surround effects —have to be assigned to a general zone, not a specific location. And because there are no overhead speakers, the sounds cannot move above you.

In Dolby Atmos, each of those sounds can be created as an independent entity — an audio object. Put all the objects together, and you'll feel like you're actually in the restaurant, not just watching a scene.

Any sound can be a single audio object, placed and moved independently anywhere in the theater. The filmmaker decides exactly where the sound should come from and where it should move. So you hear the roar of a plane flying overhead from above you, or a door closing to the left. Sounds can originate from a single speaker or sequence of speakers, or from any number of speakers simultaneously.

Audio objects empower filmmakers to focus on the story and put the sounds where they belong, rather than compromise the artistic impact to fit a fixed channel or zone.


Making the bed

Some elements of a movie soundtrack, however, still benefit from a channel-based approach — for instance, ambient effects and music backgrounds. So a Dolby Atmos soundtrack also includes a more conventional channel-based "bed," together with the audio objects. Dolby Atmos packages up to 128 audio tracks — a 9.1 bed and up to 118 audio objects.


Putting it together

The Dolby Atmos processor in the theater intelligently assigns each audio track. It maps the bed channels to screen channels or surround arrays, and positions objects within the room. It's all reproduced in real time based on where the loudspeakers are. Dolby Atmos scales to the specific speaker complement of a theater, so the effects will be the same regardless of the auditorium's size.

Sound placement is consistent throughout the audience. Thanks to audio objects originating from specific locations rather than general areas, you'll hear the exact same effect no matter where you sit in the theater — every seat is the "sweet spot."


Even more audio improvements

Having independently powered speakers improves the sound in other ways as well. For instance, tonal quality sometimes suffers when a sound is reproduced by an array of loudspeakers. Being able to direct that sound to single speakers makes the reproduction much more accurate and realistic.

Also, in traditional surround setups, a sound moved from the screen to the surround zones drops in volume. Dolby Atmos, using improved room equalization and better bass management along with the independently powered speakers, avoids this problem. Sounds maintain the right volume as they move, adding to the realism.

The complete Dolby Atmos system also includes authoring and distribution tools. For the full story in detail, check out our white paper.

Dolby Atmos for distributors

Dolby Atmos represents a new era in movie distribution. This revolutionary new audio platform for the cinema greatly simplifies movie distribution by eliminating the need for multiple format inventories. With Dolby Atmos, the same file will play in any theater and faithfully reproduce the director's intent for the movie.

Package once, distribute everywhere

Eliminates multiple print masters

Dolby Atmos® eliminates multiple print masters — a single DCP includes the information necessary for any theater configuration. Dolby Atmos builds intelligence into audio files, eliminating the need for multiple versions and keys.

Preserves creative intent

A soundtrack will play back faithfully in any theater. Dolby Atmos works across a wide array of speaker configurations and auditorium shapes and sizes.

Delivers the best possible experience

Dolby Atmos captures the artistic intent for a wide variety of theater configurations at the time of mixing and embeds that information in the DCP. It ensures a consistent experience in any theater, from 5.1 or 7.1 up to 64 channels.

Technology highlights

Dolby Atmos supports up to 128 simultaneous and lossless audio streams and allows up to 64 discrete speaker feeds. It includes overhead speakers and adds side surrounds closer to the screen for improved transitions.

The solution you've been waiting for

Offer your cinema audience a unique experience: Dolby Atmos audio surpasses anything available outside the theater. And because it works across a range of theater configurations, you can upgrade cinemas over time and realize improvements with each step.

A revolutionary audio platform

Simplifies inventory

One DCP and one key will play in any theater in a complex.

Adapts to your theater

Dolby Atmos captures the director's intent and brings it intact to any theatre of any size and configuration, from 5.1 and 7.1 up to 64 channels. It ensures that the audience experience is always the best possible for your specific playback environment.

Technology highlights

Dolby Atmos supports up to 128 simultaneous and lossless audio streams and allows up to 64 discrete speaker feeds. It includes overhead speakers and adds side surrounds closer to the screen for improved transitions.

Delivers a new experience

Dolby Atmos redefines the cinema experience by offering content creators new ways to tell their stories. It adds the ability to control distinct sound elements in a soundtrack to the traditional channel-based approach for mixing.

A scalable solution for theater owners

If you want to get the most from your theaters now while looking to the future, Dolby Atmos provides your ideal solution. You can make upgrades at once or incrementally, and at every point Dolby Atmos maximizes the audio performance of your theater.

Dolby Atmos for content creators

Dolby Atmos is a revolutionary new audio platform that gives you unprecedented and precise control over the placement and movement of sound within a movie theatre. You can tell your stories far more powerfully than ever before. Combining products, services, and technologies, Dolby Atmos represents a complete end-to-end audio platform for movies well into the future.


Dolby Atmos benefits for post-production

Expands the artistic palette

Content creators can now place and move sound anywhere in a theater. Overhead speakers open up new possibilities. Added side surrounds closer to the screen improve transitions.

Preserves creative intent

A soundtrack will play back faithfully in any theater. Dolby Atmos works across a wide array of speaker configurations and auditorium shapes and sizes.

Simplifies audio post-production

Dolby Atmos can automatically create 5.1 and 7.1 deliverables. A single Digital Cinema Package (DCP) inventory simplifies distribution.

Follows existing workflow

Content creators can continue to use familiar tools and processes.

New possibilities and efficiencies

Dynamic audio objects

Added to the traditional channel-based workflow, these allow you to control discrete sound elements in the theatre. Objects are static or can move and are controlled by metadata.

Dolby Rendering and Mastering Unit (RMU)

The brain of the Dolby Atmos platform, the RMU provides the rendering engine for the mix stage, plus tools for room configuration, management, and print mastering. Using MADI–based audio connectivity, the RMU connects to the mix client via Ethernet.

Dolby Atmos monitor application

Enables communication with the RMU. It provides metering and monitoring control, visual feedback and mix information for the mixer, print-mastering controls, and transport control for playback of existing print masters on the RMU.

Simplified approach

Sound mixers can efficiently capture the director's vision and then monitor or automatically generate 5.1- and 7.1-channel versions in real time. All the artistic intent is embedded in a file within a single DCP.

Dolby Atmos panner plug-in for Avid Pro Tools

AAX Native plug-in for Pro Tools® 10 systems or later, controlled directly from any control surface compatible with Pro Tools. Includes three-dimensional panning control for audio objects, user control for object size, and preset elevation modes.

Dolby Secure Content Creator SCC2000

The Dolby Secure Content Creator SCC2000 supports the creation of SMPTE packaged DCPs containing a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.

Third-party mixing tools


AMS Neve has updated the Digital Film Console (DFC) to natively support mixing in Dolby Atmos. For more information and support, please visit the AMS Neve website.

Harrison consoles with IKIS Automation Engine

Any Harrison MPC or Trion™ console running the IKIS™ automation engine can be updated to allow direct communication to the Dolby Atmos RMU and object control from each console channel. For information, please visit the Harrison consoles website.

Avid Pro Tools and System 5

Integration with Pro Tools is achieved through the Dolby Atmos Panner plug-in. The plug-in sends metadata to the RMU and allows control of audio objects in a mix. For more information, please see the authoring for Dolby Atmos Cinema sound manual

Fairlight 3DAW

Fairlight’s 3DAW adds 3D sound capability to existing 2D DAWs, with full support for the Dolby Atmos RMU. For more information please visit the Fairlight website.