Dolby Digital's 'Brave' new audio world

Posted By Daniel Restuccio on May 25, 2012 08:22 am | Permalink

By Daniel Restuccio

SAN FRANCISCO - At the Dolby Fidelity Forum 2.0 in San Francisco last week they demonstrated a host of evolutionary audio and video technologies for Blu-Ray mastering and digital theater design that are destined to make the digital cinema experience in theaters and at home more immersive and engaging. 

Craig Eggers, senior manager of Dolby Laboratories' consumer electronics partner marketing division, said that the forum was a chance to show Dolby's vision and get feedback from enthusiasts and media journalists. Dolby wants the Hollywood community to know that they bring value to content creation by providing the latest advances in lossless audio. Bringing new audio and video technology to market is a "collaborative process" and they are a "significant partner," not just a company that invents things.

Some of the highlights of the forum included: 

Dolby True HD

Advanced & Dolby Media Producer: Dolby's new streamlined Media Producer software now features a 48k to 96k upresing capability called Dolby True HD Advanced that noticeably enhances the audio experience of sound mastered at 48k. This brighter, more robust audio image available in stereo, 5.1 and 7.1 Surround, is particularly improved by the removal of the "preringing" artifact in that occurs in 48k production. Dolby's upresing process uses a unique apodizing filter that shifts the artifact temporally and restores a clearer tonality to the sound. Most noticeable in high-energy action sequences, the results are also still distinct in softer dialogue driven dramatic scenes.  

Some of the post houses that have upgraded to the new mastering technology include Deluxe Digital Studios, Giant Interactive, Mi Casa Multimedia, POP Sound and Technicolor. While Dolby views this as value added it still remains to be seen if the post houses will charge studios extra for this advanced feature in Blu-ray title post production. 

Dolby Atmos

Historically, Dolby has consistently raised the audio fidelity bar with Dolby SR in the 1980's, Dolby 5.1 and Surround EX in the 1990s and Dolby Surround 7.1 in 2010. In 2007, a major exhibitor approached Dolby wanting to know what the future of sound was going to be, said Stuart Bowling, Dolby senior worldwide technical marketing manager. "They were in the process of defining what the premium experience would be in their theaters." It quickly became clear that the next step would be a radical evolution rather than an incremental improvement. Hence, Dolby built on the foundation of their lossless digital 7.1 technology and re-conceptualized the listening experience to create Atmos, a totally immersive soundscape environment.  

Atmos adds to the 7.1 configuration additional left and right speaker arrays above the listener with the potential to configure a theatrical sound environment with a total of 64 speaker feeds. 

To take full advantage of the infinite design potential Dolby created new Pro Tools plug-ins that allow the creation of 128 "objects."  These "objects" are discrete sounds that can be spatially localized with incredible precision and panned in a near seamless spherical space. During playback the objects "trigger" in realtime, dynamically balanced to the number of speakers in the theatrical space. The actual experience is so charmingly innovative that it totally reorients your perception of what movies should sound like. 

Dolby is assisting Disney/Pixar and Gary Rydstrom at Skywalker Sound with the audio post production on Brave, the first feature/animated feature movie using this technology. The Stag screening room at Skywalker has been upgraded to 41.3 speakers and the Atmos technology for the mix. 

Plans are in progress for Brave to exhibit in 15 theaters in major cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The newly re-branded Dolby Theatre at Hollywood and Vine, home of the Academy Awards broadcast, is being upgraded into a showcase Dolby Atmos theater. The 3,400-seat space could potentially be ready for the June 22th Brave premiere.