Originally Posted by batpig
I would assume (if done logically) the heights would carry ambient reverb from crowd noise, PA announcements, car engines, etc. to enhance the sense of space and "being there" for the race.
That's actually what you get, based on running the Altitude's Input Meters on the last half hour (from about 1:50:00 on) of Ford vs. Ferrari last night. This is another ideosyncratic mix: heavily 7.1, even during much of the racing scenes. But when the heights do come in (probably for about 15% of the last half hour, if that), this time it's the front heights (top front) and top middles. The rear height/tops are only used very sporadically for effects, for example a few scenes with a helicopter panning in the front and overhead to the top middles (and fading into the top rears). Remember, I've got a .6 height setup. But probably 90% of the time that more than 7.1 is engaged overhead, it's the same "static pair of stereo overheads" effect in one form or another (same sound, just different levels for front heights/tops vs. top middles).
You're getting car engines, the sound of rain above and around the drivers, wipers running, occasional bursts of effect for zooming around a competitor or some weather effect, all of which add to the scenes for emphasis (in my opinion). But it's not nearly as active as a 6 Underground. On that film, once the Ghost team gets into action in Hong Kong and Turgistan, you get some in-your-face use of the Atmos presence speakers (wides, front sides, screen center) to emphasize the breakneck action (i.e. the bad guys getting magnetized).
When the heights do light up on Ford, you're often also getting the front surrounds (ss1) lighting up as well. Perhaps there's an object placement that's using both speakers to produce a more ambient "close to the listener" effect. But very odd that the rear heights are almost silent in my 13.x.6 setup. My screen centers are pretty much silent as well, and likewise (at least in my room, but I'll verify this) for the wides. I'm guessing that since I have front surrounds, it's carrying content that might be played in wides if I didn't have them. Maybe I'll try that preset and rewatch.
Leaving the technical aside, one other thing to consider is that the mixer might have been going for the feel of a documentary, and more of a 60's vibe rather than a more modern Michael Bay kinetic intensity. So perhaps a relatively more conservative sound was the goal.
So summarizing - sure, if you crank the sound and have the subs using Bass EQ, it's a better than average experience if you're running 7.1.4 (where the top fronts and top rears will split the top middle). But IMO there are "better" examples of a more sophisticated use of native Atmos once you get outside of that. I'd put Ready Player One or 6 Underground, or Overlord on the list ahead of Ford, to be honest.
I also took a look at the Bass EQ chart for Ford - it's not just me that for all the excitement, this isn't a heavy LFE movie out of the box. Check out the rolloff starting at about 45 Hz on the red dashed line, peaks aside (green dashed), and the use of LS filters to shape the curve below 40 Hz. If anything, there's a db rise from 40 to 70 Hz relative to above or below that point. Perhaps this helping to give the sense of pounding bass without digging too deep into the ULF for subsonic rumble without enhancement.
Disclaimer: I'm watching on Apple TV from an ATV source (as opposed to Roku's limitation of lossy 5.1), but I've verified that I'm indeed getting Dolby Atmos as advertised on the description. I'm almost tempted to do the perverse thing and upmix the 5.1 track from the Roku with Neural:X in the Trinnov's DTS:X Pro and compare...