At the risk of being accused of shilling for Dolby Atmos, I’ll freely admit that I’m a huge fan of the new immersive, object-based surround format and feel that it is one of those things that once customers experience, they will want to have in their own homes. Today I thought I’d tell you about Dolby’s brand new Atmos Blu-ray Demo Disc and let you know how you can get a copy for yourself or your company. (Note, this offer is only open to integrators, and you will need to provide your company details to Dolby to receive your disc.)
Like many things we sell, Atmos is an experiential system that you will likely need to demonstrate to sell. Being able to demonstrate an Atmos system – ideally a 7.1.4 (or more) solution – will also separate you from the big box stores, as it will likely be a while before they get around to offering an immersive demo. Dolby’s latest demo disc is packed with some cool clips that will allow you to quickly and easily demonstrate and explain what Atmos is, what makes it evolutionary, and how it sounds.
Here’s a breakdown of the tracks found on the disc:
Introduction to Dolby Atmos for the Home (4:08)
This is a terrific sales icebreaker for you to show new home theater clients, as it quickly and simply explains, demonstrates, and demystifies what Dolby Atmos is and why this is “the next revolution” in surround sound technology. The clip starts off by explaining, “A Dolby Atmos soundtrack transports you from an ordinary moment into an extraordinary experience,” and then various onscreen clips swirl audio around the room and overhead.
Brett Crockett, Dolby’s senior director of research, Sound Technology, does a nice job explaining and simplifying how traditional channel-based surround sound mixing works and why Atmos’ new object-based audio system gives sound designers better tools to move sounds precisely around the room and even overhead to deliver the ultimate immersive experience.
Crockett also explains the components needed to create a Dolby Atmos home theater environment. I do take issue with the statement that you can get the “same incredible experience” with upfiring Atmos speakers, as in my personal experience, this is not the same and definitely ceiling and room dependent. However, it will open up a nice dialog between you and customers, and it’s great that there is an Atmos solution for rooms that can’t support in-ceiling speakers for whatever the reason. Crocket also says that an “optimal Dolby Atmos experience” is achieved with four overhead (or upfiring) speakers, but it can be achieved with as few as two or as many as ten. (If you do a home theater with ten Atmos ceiling speakers,
PLEASE let me know about it as I’d love to talk to you about the install!)
Horizon is a very cool and effective clip that has a running commentary explaining Atmos along with some really aggressive audio mixed to the side, back, and overhead speakers. The clip begins by saying, “Right now you are listening to where cinematic audio has been,” with just a traditional, fairly restrained 5.1-channel audio mix playing. After a few moments the soundtrack explodes into a full Atmos mix as satellites and spaceships whiz by overhead. This is a really effective demo with a lot of different audio and visual elements making it appealing and engaging to a large variety of viewers.
Silent is a cute animated short that was included on Dolby’s previous demo disc, and a clip I have been demoing with for some time. It has also won two Daytime Emmy Awards at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Daytime Creative Arts Emmys along with a Clio, a London International Award, two Epica Awards, two Cristal Festival Awards, and a Communication Arts Illustration Award. It follows a father-and-daughter street-performing duo as they step into an old-time movie house (escaping a rainstorm that shows off Atmos to great effect) and go on a fantastical journey into film. As the name would imply, there is no talking, but the Atmos information is anything but silent! This is an especially great clip to show if you are demoing to families.
Amaze takes you on a brief trip through a rainforest as birds fly around and rain falls from overhead. Other than the on-screen visuals, a lot of the audio reminds me of that old Dolby/THX Surround-EX audio-only demo clip, where a bird flew around the room, the hunter shoots at it and misses, and a tree comes crashing down, finishing in a Wilhelm scream. (Except there is no shooting or tree falling in Amaze.)
Leaf takes you back into a forest with bugs darting about the room as you slowly move through the branches of a tree and follow a leaf as it breaks free and then spins and twirls around the room, finally settling into a pond. Leaf features audio mixed by master soundman Gary Rydstrom, animation by Pixar, and makes for a terrific demo.
While Dolby’s last demo disc didn’t offer any movie clips, this one doesn’t really do much better. I was hoping this would have the demo clip from Star Trek used at CEDIA, or—even better—any of the many awesome demo scenes from Gravity (click here to read my Gravity Atmos Blu-ray disc review), but sadly it didn’t. If I didn’t stress it enough previously, go out at buy the Gravity Atmos Blu-ray!
Transformers: Age of Extinction (1:07)
This is a short clip from the latest Transformers movie that is full of mayhem, explosions, and an alien ship dropping things from the sky that come crashing down all around you. It’s an exciting, albeit short, clip that nicely demonstrates what Atmos brings to movies.
Where the Trail Ends (2:22)
This clip shows BMX bikers doing some insane jumps on trails, and while it might be visually appealing and cool to a young demographic, it doesn’t really offer much as far as Atmos audio goes except for some music mixed pretty aggressively up to the ceiling and occasional swooshes of sound in the side channels as a biker does a trick.
On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter (2:07)
This is basically a commercial for a Red Bull Media House film about motorcycle racing. While the audio mix and visuals are more exciting than Trail, it still isn’t that great for a demo.
Similar to closing your eyes when you are trying to really listen to a piece of music, when you remove the visual element, it makes people focus on the sound which is really 100 percent what Atmos is all about. These audio only clips do a terrific job of letting people focus on Atmos doing its thing and all three make great demos.
This was one of the most effective Atmos demos from CEDIA and I’m thrilled that it made it onto this disc. This clip cycles between traditional, 5.1-channel audio and Atmos audio while you are in the middle of a massive thunderstorm, with rain just pounding and pelting down all around you and the canopy over your head. This is likely the only clip you would ever need to play to really help people “get” exactly what Atmos is all about. When the audio toggles back to 5.1, the soundstage literally collapses all around you, making you never want to go back. My only complaint with this clip is that it is such an effective demo of the overhead channels, I wish it lasted longer.
The Encounter (1:32)
Here you are out in a field at night with bugs all around, when you have an audio encounter with a spaceship that lands overhead and then kind of reaches and probes around the room. This is a really great demo showing off the placement and immersion capabilities of Atmos, especially in a full 7.1.4 system. Like with Rainstorm, this clip toggles between 5.1 and Atmos, revealing just how much the extra speakers and object-based audio add to the experience.
This has birds (loons?) that call and move around the room while there is a steady kind of drum beat, shakers, and wind chimes going on. Imagine stumbling into a drum circle where a shirtless Matthew McConaughey is enjoying some herbal and just letting the musical muse take him where it chooses. This shares the same Atmos on/off as the above two, but isn’t nearly as engaging and is the least impressive in my opinion.
Enrique Iglesias, “Bailando” (4:23)
I’ve watched Bailando so many times at this point that I’ve actually just come to accept it. (I wanna be contigo…) I’m never going to be an Enrique fan (And live contigo…), or download the song and listen to it in my spare time (And dance contigo…), but I can now sit through it and just appreciate it for what it is (Para have contigo…). Also, it has a super-aggressive audio mix with massive overhead involvement that really sounds great and won’t leave anyone wondering if they can hear what is going on above them. Voices and instruments are also mixed around the room and up into the ceiling giving the audio a really expansive, room-filling quality.
F1 Red Bull (1:03)
This was on the previous demo disc, which was an abbreviated version of what was demoed at CEDIA, which is a real bummer because this is a really cool cut following an F1 car as it shifts gears and rips through a racetrack and tunnel. The sound is really awesome and does a terrific job of immersing you in the on-screen action.
Retail Loop (21:28)
While all of the other clips play one-and-done returning you to the menu, the retail loop is all of the above content (save the Introduction to Dolby Atmos segment) that repeats over and over. It’s nice to leave on to have something playing, but I prefer to give a more personal, guided-tour through the Atmos demo so I can explain and gauge a customer’s reaction as I go. I really wish that you could select all the audio-only clips and have them play one right after the other, but you can’t.