Leading up to the Oscars, Dolby hosted the annual Dolby Oscar Nominee Party, featuring a thought leadership panel, moderated by Glenn Kiser (Head of Dolby Institute), proudly highlighting this year's sound nominees from the four films Joker, Ad Astra, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Ford v Ferrari. The event kicked off with clips from each of the four films (in Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision, of course), followed by a panel discussion where we learned more about their creative process, how trends for sound design have changed, and the role Dolby Atmos plays amidst all of this.
The four films discussed that evening used a wide range of styles and techniques to create the soundscape for what are four very different stories. However, the role of sound remained unchanged: to bring the audience into the world of the characters. This is where Dolby Atmos comes in. Sound editor Alan Robert Murray, and sound mixers Tom Ozanich, and Dean Zupancic talk about how they used Dolby Atmos in Joker to "blend the real and not real to create confusion within the character and the audience." With the ability to place sounds in every corner of the room, they were able to create the universe of Gotham, or Arthur's mind when he's standing in the comedy club, so that the audience could "catch all the little details and feel like they are right there with Arthur."
Another common theme discussed that evening was the precision and accuracy of Dolby Atmos. Mark Ulano and Mike Minkler, sound mixers for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, explained the role of sound in Quentin Tarantino's dialogue-driven films. With barely any music score, "hundreds of tiny pieces of sounds are created to build the tapestry of weirdness of [Spahn Movie Ranch]. Dolby Atmos is the tool that allows for this kind of precision that we just didn't have before." Sound editor for Ford v Ferrari, Don Sylvester, shared how they tracked down every single type of car featured in the movie and the importance of Dolby Atmos's ability to capture the accuracy of each rev a different engine produces to create the illusion for the audience that they are right there on the racing track.
"Dolby Atmos gives artists every corner of the room to craft a soundscape that’s as immersive as the stories their films tell," said Glenn Kiser. The panel ended with everyone agreeing that seeing the clips in Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision made them want to rewatch all of the films. In fact, Minkler let us in on the secret that he had missed Ad Astra in the theaters, and was "blown away by the difference, hearing it in Dolby Atmos for the first time." Read more about the event from the top Oscars party wrap-ups: The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, The Wrap, and Variety.