Originally Posted by NorthSky
Your insight is much sought after, Scott.
Whew! Just got back a little while ago from my drive back up from LA. First I'd like to extend a thanks to Scott Wilkinson for the invitation to this event. It was quite an opportunity to attend such an event with many members of the press.
As I am playing 'catch up' here now that Marc, Sanjay and Ray have commented about the events, I'll keep this somewhat short. These guys are way smarter and more articulate that I so I'll not repeat all the important technical stuff and just relay my experience of the day and my thoughts.
After a nice brunch with the guys (sdurani, FilmMixer, Rayjr) we headed out to the Dolby HQ in Burbank. We got there a little bit early so we had some time to mingle a bit in the reception area on the third floor. Hmph, that fruit looked good. Should have grabbed some pineapple and strawberries.
Where was I? Oh.
So after some time the place filled up with the remaining guests and Dolby employees. There were many members of home theater press there. Soon enough we were ushered into Dolby's private cinema there at the Burbank office. It was a modestly sized venue (wait for Ray's pics) with enough to seat about 30-40 people plus a mixing console in the middle. It was loaded with speakers nearly touching each other. IIRC it was somewhere around 34 speakers in total.
We were introduced to lead Atmos designer Brett Crockett and Stewart Bowling head of the cinema division for Atmos. They gave a short presentation that explained Atmos from where it began to what it is now and where they want to take it in the near future. Most of these things most of you should know by now
but it was interesting to see that they fully intend to implement Atmos into nearly every kind of A/V media from our full fledged HT rooms right on down to portable media such as tablets and phones. Although that subject was touched on very little on the day it will be cool to hear more about that in a years time, I'm sure.
After the brief presentation they went straight into some demo material. First up was the array of Atmos 'trailers' available in equipped cinemas. In order of appearance was the 'Amaze' then 'Unfold' and then 'Leaf' Atmos trailers.
Also included was an Atmos trailer from Red Bull with Sebastian Vettel driving and some cool sound effects and quick edits.
Not sure what it was called so I can't find the video if it's available. These all sound very cool in a gimicky way, sure but it's fun stuff. If you have seen a movie in Dolby Atmos at your local cinema you have probably seen one of these.
Honorable mention is the 'Introducing Dolby Atmos' EPK that I saw for my first time while attending a show of Guardians with Sanjay. This video is very short but it stars Stuart Bowling who was in attendance at this private demo.
Next up on the list of demos was the opening to 'Star Trek: Into Darkness'. This was played back at reference level in full Atmos sound. I won't comment on the hardware or levels but I must say I did not think that this was a great choice for a "demo". The mix for Into Darkness is quite loud and bombastic which sounds like it would be great but it is way too busy and you really don't get a huge sense of what Atmos is capable of. That being said it was immediately clear that it was presented in Atmos as things moved around the room with single speaker precision. Something you can't get when you are locked into single channels and a cinema surround 'array' of speakers. Along with my face, objects were ripping across the the room and ceiling. Again, I had wished that other material was used but I think in such short notice (and possible apprehensive "support" from the studios) this was sufficient.
As soon as these clips were finished we were sent in groups into shuttles to another Dolby location in Burbank where they had their home theater system to show us for demo. At this point I we were split up and groups of 6 or so were sent into the HT room for demo. I was allowed into a small conference room with the remaining attendees for some very interesting Q&A with Stuart, Brett and Craig Eggers who is the head of the consumer technical division for Dolby. This was a very interesting point in the day as we all got to freely ask questions and they could answer them as best as they could. Some very modest questions and some very technical questions. I think Sanjay and I caught them by surprise with some of ours.
I was in the last group to get the home theater demo. The room was not large but not small. Something of 25ft long, maybe 16-18ft wide and about 8ft tall. There were six seats right in the middle with a large table with computers and other various tech in the back. Erm, I didn't take a good long look at that stuff admittedly.
(actually I did get some video of the room. I'll see about an upload but it's not that great of a video.
) The room was equiped with a 50" lcd tv of sorts with a full 7.1.4 system both with "Atmos-equipped" and actual overhead surrounds. Also there was a soundbar that was covered. TBA, I'm sure.
So I sat down in the front row left seat. I had to let Gary Reber take the center seat. He's got a magazine to run, you know! I'm just some dude on the internetz.
So at this demo was the Atmos trailers from before but now in an HT environment. Played back in Atmos they sounded very convincing. Also played back was the same scene from Into Darkness but we had a chance to hear it in conventional 7.1 and again in Atmos. All the floor level speakers were quite low. Right at ear level. The difference was very noticable and in my opinion clearly improved in Atmos. The next and very interesting demo was a couple of sound only demos put together for demo purposes, obviously. The first was simply an object of a helicopter that would circle around the room. We had this played back in 7.1 then in Atmos with actual ceiling speakers and then again in Atmos but with the upfiring reflective method. All versions sounded different. The 7.1 had an excellent sense of being surrounded by an encircling helicopter but not like it was above me. Then when played back with the ceiling mounted speakers I could clearly hear that it was above me and encircling. Cool! Now... heh, the really neat part. Last was it played back with the upfiring speakers and boy was I impressed! I was not ready for it to sound that
good. (to be clear I have not been fluffed with any incentive. This is purely me speaking from the heart) It really did sound like there were speakers up above and the image was very stable. I had expected it to be much more diffuse and not very localizable but I could always tell if it was in front, behind and to the left or right. Very, very impressive.
Last up was another demo of similar playback but this time it was a recording of a thunderstorm. During this demo they had toggled between real and reflective heights and seriously could not tell the difference. Wow.
Just noticed how much time it took to type this so I'm going to wrap this up. Gotta close up shop.
I can't enough how eye (ear?) opening this experience was. It was really special.
I will come back to chime in if you guys are interested. I'm sure there is more left to mention about the day.