TOKYO, JAPAN — In late June, Netflix introduced on its video streaming service support for Dolby Atmos, which its developer, Dolby, described the audio technology itself as “the most significant development in cinema audio since surround sound”.
Netflix started Dolby Atmos with action-adventure movie Okja, a critically acclaimed film directed by Bong Joon Ho that debuted at the Cannes Film Festival, and is now available for streaming globally.
So, what is Dolby Atmos?
Developed and released in 2012 by Dolby Laboratories, a company that specializes in audio noise reduction and audio encoding and compression, Dolby Atmos, of course, targeted cinemas first. The surround sound technology, which supports up to 128 simultaneous audio objects in a cinematic mix, expanded the standard 5.1 and 7.1 theater set-ups with even more speakers placed at points all around the room, not only from the front screen, sides and back walls, but also above the ceiling.
In an ideal Dolby Atmos cinema configuration, up to 64 speakers can be used, totally enveloping the audience with sound, thus creating an incredible immersive experience.
We had a chance to test the very first prototype use of Dolby Atmos in a small theater environment when the audio technology was first demoed at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, several years ago. That experience was unforgettable. And now, Dolby Atmos is available in many major cinemas in the metro.
At home with Atmos
Sixty four speakers, of course, will not fit any standard home theater setup. Nonetheless, different audio brands offer simpler alternatives: aside from the audio decoder, these manufacturers also sell add-on speakers — two or four ceiling speakers or purpose-built Atmos speaker system. After a room calibration on speaker placement, each speaker in an Atmos-enabled system will receive its own audio feed, enabling new front, surround and ceiling-mounted channels.
Home audiophile brands such as Onkyo, Pioneer, Yamaha, Denon, Sony, and Marantz fully support Dolby Atmos, including TV manufacturers like Samsung, LG, among others, and gaming console Microsoft Xbox One.
“Dolby Atmos streaming is supported on Microsoft’s Xbox One, One S and 2017 LG OLED TVs,” said Gregg Peters, Netflix chief product officer, in an earlier press statement. “On the Xbox, you can get this experience when your console is connected to a Dolby Atmos-enabled home theater system, TV or soundbar, or via headphones using the new Dolby Atmos for headphones feature available for purchase through the Dolby Access app in the Xbox Store.”
On the LG OLED TV, particularly the LG SJ9 500W, built-in Dolby Atmos capabilities could create a 360-degree sound field around without the need to connect to an external sound system.
“Much like how 4K and HDR bring more stunning and realistic visuals to the screen, Dolby Atmos delivers captivating sound that places and moves audio anywhere in the room, including overhead, to bring entertainment to life all around you, all in the comfort of your own living room,” said Peters. “Imagine being surrounded by the sounds of the scene you’re watching – an airplane passing overhead, or the subtlety of the wind rustling tree leaves all around you. Having the extra dimension of immersive audio is a game changer for experiencing the realism of a story, and feeling like you’re a part of it.
In addition to Okja, Dolby Atmos will be available on other Netflix-distributed titles including Tsutomu Nihei’s Japanese science fiction manga Blame! (read: Blam); the live-action Death Note, based on Tsugumi Ohba’s classic manga; the urban fantasy action crime thriller Bright, and the action thriller Wheelman.
Netflix said that as they deliver spectacular visuals to complement the immersive sound, the company plans to add support to more devices, making the experience more accessible to Netflix subcribers everywhere. This now bring Dolby Atmos from the cinema, to the living room, and even to mobile devices.
Japanese anime Blame! now streaming on Netflix.