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Among the events of press day at CEDIA this year was Dolby's press conference to introduce Atmos for the home to the installer community. It started with a presentation from Brett Crockett, Dolby's Director of Sound Research, who reiterated the basics of Atmos, including its object orientation, the importance of overhead speakers, hacking the mechanism of human hearing to facilitate upfiring Atmos-enabled speakers, compatibility with existing Blu-ray players, and the news that Transformers: Age of Extinction will be the first Blu-ray with an Atmos soundtrack. (Unfortunately, Dolby made no announcements regarding other upcoming titles.)

Then it was time for a panel discussion, which I was privileged to moderate. The panelists (L-R in photo above after me at the far left) included Greg Russell, re-recording mixer for Transformers: Age of Extinction; Paul Wasek, Marketing and Product Planning Manager for Onkyo and Integra; Jeff Cowan, VP of Training for Denon and Marantz; Andrew Jones, Director of Speaker Engineering for Pioneer and TAD Labs; Joel Sietsema, Director of Brand Management for Definitive Technology; and Brett Crockett.

I started by asking what each panelist thought is the most important thing consumers need to know to get up and running with Atmos. Brett started by saying it's to realize that you have choice. "When we first announced this, we thought everyone would say, 'Dolby is going to try and make people buy a lot of speakers.' But with a very modest investment, you can get your foot in the water and build from there." Joel mentioned the importance of getting a demo, which is the only way to really appreciate what Atmos can do; fortunately, there will soon be many retailers where such a demo can be heard.

Andrew's response was that it's actually quite easy to implement; he likes to say it's only running four more wires to locations where there are already speakers (assuming you plan to use Atmos-enabled upfiring speakers such as Pioneer makes). Jeff pointed out that, while we wait for Atmos content, Atmos-equipped AVRs do a great job with legacy content; almost anything currently available can sound better because of the way Atmos technology works. On the other hand, Paul thought it was important to realize that Atmos content is coming, and soon.

Speaking of legacy content, I asked Brett to discuss the Dolby Surround upmixer, which expands anything from 2-channel stereo to 7.1 soundtracks to all available Atmos speakers. "We realized that there won't be a lot of native Atmos content at first, so we invented a new upmixer to replace Pro Logic II family. It works in a very natural way; we didn't want it to be hokey, and I think we succeeded. I love listening to stereo music through the Dolby Surround process. It's like the movies—I'm 'in' the sound. I've also heard some older Blu-rays that I could swear were Atmos mixes."

Next, I asked Greg about the process of mixing in Atmos for Transformers: Age of Extinction. "This was probably the most fun I've had mixing a movie in a long time," he said. "People speak about the objects, and it's really great to have that clarity and definition for each object," he said. "but what's also significant is to have full-range surrounds that don't wimp out when you pan things like helicopters to them. The sound retains its rich, deep character." He was originally skeptical that the cinema mix would translate well in a home environment, and he was really surprised that it works so well. "How great is it for people at home to experience the vision of a filmmaker?"

Brett reiterated that an ideal Atmos system includes full-range speakers all around, including the overheads, to maintain a consistent timbre as objects move throughout the soundfield. He also mentioned that movie-sound mixers were hesitant to put beefy sounds in the surrounds and overheads, because they were used to avoiding that in home mixes. "The first time I heard a 7.1 version of an Atmos mix, I knew that 7.1 has changed forever. An Atmos mix is going to sound better on a 7.1 system as a result."

I asked Greg if it's more or less difficult to mix in Atmos compared to mixing a traditional 5.1 or 7.1 soundtrack. He replied that it can take somewhat longer than a conventional soundtrack, mostly because there's a new freedom to experiment, and engineers like to play around with things they couldn't do before. Even some of the musical elements can end up in the overhead speakers. "For example, the score for Transformers: Age of Extinction was a collaboration between composer Steve Jablonsky and Imagine Dragons, and we ended up putting the choral vocals in the ceiling, almost like the voices of angels."

What about the translation from cinema to home? For the home version, Greg listened on smaller monitors and found that it translated very well. "Just beware of lighting fixtures; we're moving a lot of air, so anything loose is going to rattle!"

Next, I asked Andrew and Joel about the greatest challenge they faced in creating speakers for Atmos. Joel said it was to nail the on-axis frequency response while minimizing any shift off axis. For Andrew, it was seeing how concentric drivers could be used, which was more of a head start because that type of driver lends itself to the technology really well.

Paul and Jeff also spoke about the greatest challenge they faced in developing Atmos AVRs. Jeff said it was a business decision—Atmos requires a lot of processing power, and the question arose about whether or not to allow current products to be upgraded to Atmos with a firmware update. Denon and Marantz decided they would not allow a firmware upgrade; instead, they doubled the number of DSPs in their new products to fully support Atmos as well as Audyssey auto room correction. Interestingly, Paul said that Onkyo and Integra made the opposite decision, and that some of their current products can be upgraded via firmware.

In the final few minutes, I asked about speaker placement, and Brett reminded everyone that Dolby just released a detailed installation guide, which you can download from AVS here. He also said that if the speaker placement isn't perfect, it should still work pretty well; Atmos is designed to be forgiving. Joel agreed, saying that Atmos is almost begging you to try and make it not work. It's very resilient, so don't be afraid if you don't have the perfect placement.

It was a great panel, and I thank Dolby for inviting me to moderate it. Dolby also recorded video of the entire thing, and when it's available, I'll post it on AVS.

Return to Master CEDIA 2014 Thread

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Great Post

How does Dolby Atmos affect room correction software? Do we have any indications if folks like Audyssey will making adjustments to software to accommodate new speaker locations/ or new types of speakers?
 

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Am I reading correctly that they implied that Onkyo does not have Audyssey because they don't have adequate processing power?
I must have missed that. I read the Onkyo would allow an upgrade to some existing products where others will not. That to me says that Onkyo has some products that have enough processing power. I didn't read that you'd have to go with Atmos or Audyssey on the onkyo.
 

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Looking fwd to the video, were most of the AVS community questions addressed?
If so, will you summarize the answers in that thread?

btw Scott, I like your "Master Thread for Event XXX" the dashboard style, makes it easy to go to topic and topic to see coverage.

2nd btw; I can't believe you have only 1,163 posts Scott, possible once you reached 2^16 power the counter reset itself??

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I just read the install guide, so I'm Good to go with my 11.2 existing Front Wides/Heights per that, assuming future AVR can recognize that.....so cool.
I'll then add the ceilings to make a 11.2.4 (or 11.2.6).

What the guide did not address at my quick review is multiple rows, I need to read it more deeply......
 

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Great article thank you very much.

I am also wondering what exactly was meant by full range surrounds? Everything crossed at 40?
 

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I must have missed that. I read the Onkyo would allow an upgrade to some existing products where others will not. That to me says that Onkyo has some products that have enough processing power. I didn't read that you'd have to go with Atmos or Audyssey on the onkyo.
The new onkyos, the ones that support Atmos, have their own calibration software. They no longer have Audyssey.
 

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Scott-
Enjoyed reading the post.

What is their idea of full range. With many of us using satellite systems and crossing over at 80Hz I begin to wonder if they're encouraging systems to be crossed around 30 or 40?
My thought exactly. For me full range is 20-20khz. I just cant Picture myself putting/hanging huge full range speakers in the celing.
 

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I think it's a little early to parse every word said. Subwoofers and bass management have been around for years, that won't change with Atmos. Dolby seems to be quite pragmatic in its expectations for HT, and knows hanging speakers with 12" woofers off the ceiling is impractical for most (including us hard core HT enthusiasts). Consider this: They spent considerable engineering time (I'm sure) to make the upfiring speaker thing a reality, that's purely for the home, not the cinema, and for homeowners convenience. I can't imagine after all that, they'd expect true full range ceiling speakers.
 

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It seems a bit odd to say that Onkyo decided to issue a firmware update to their existing line of AVR's and pre/pro's while D & M reserved Atmos for their new/forthcoming AVR's and pre/pro's. While technically true, this is only really a result of the differing release dates for the two companies' new product lines. AFAIK, nobody has 2013 models that support Atmos. It's the 2014 models that support it. Onkyo/Integra release their new models in first half of the year so it was pretty much required that they offer a firmware update to their existing 2014 models. Otherwise, they wouldn't have had an Atmos product this year. On the other hand, Denon and Marantz release their new models in the second half of the year. It just so happens that the original announcement of Dolby Atmos for the home came in the period of time between the release of Onkyo/Integra's new lineup and the release of D&M's new lineup. If Atmos had been ready to launch back in Feb/Mar then nobody would have had their 2014 models out yet so nobody would have offered a firmware update as they would all have had Atmos from Day 1. Conversely, if Atmos was not going to be ready to launch until Dec'14/Jan'15 then everybody would have already released their new models and would have had to issue firmware updates.
 

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I have a question regarding the process of mixing the 7.1 core soundtrack that you would get if you played an Atmos soundtrack on a non-Atmos 7.1 surround system...

It has been explained that most mixers will choose to create a hybrid soundtrack that includes a channel-based approach for creating the 7.1 channel bed while also creating objects which can utilize all of the available speakers. Does the mixer (human being creating the mix) have to create the core 7.1 mix that is heard when you play an Atmos soundtrack on a non-Atmos system in addition to creating the 7.1 channel bed and object audio utilized in an Atmos-enable system? Or, does his mixing software automatically create the non-Atmos 7.1 soundtrack by combining the 7.1 channel bed audio with the object audio, rendered for a normal 7.1 speaker layout?
 

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nice.... sadly even the enthusiasts are balking at the cost of this whole thing :( maybe this is the end of the enthusiast market as we know it?
I agree, I have been contemplating this move to Atmos, but for my existing 5.1 set up, to do a minimum 5.1.2 Atmos set up, I have to get a new pre amp my existing Integra 80.3 will probably not get FW up-date, although I believe it has the horsepower to be Atmos capable......anyway, I digress.

I would need two new in ceiling speakers. ($500 - $1000) for anything decent
I would need a new 2 channel amp. ($1500 - you name it)
I would need a new pre amp ($3500.00) minimum for the new Integra 80.X.

No way, not unless my existing Integra 80.3 gets a ATMOS FW up-date. Right:rolleyes:

ARE YOU LISTENING PAUL WASEK FROM INTEGRA!!!!!!

Paul
 

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Dolby balks on upcoming titles?




That's won't sit well for some people and I'm sorry to offend anyone, especially Greg Russell who has the coolest toy in the world thanks to Dolby. I'm thankful for those that support Dolby, and wish them all success. I'm going to enjoy my two sets of 17 year old Sony ~ Dolby Surround 'Pro Logic' and all my ceiling fans, track lights, wind chimes and feng shui.

Success won't be counted by weaponizing Atmos for angelic product placement of soap, fast food, motor oil, et al.
oKay!?
@JediFonger only because it's about 1234 again.. lol
 

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Woobieizer - I have to agree that the number of titles is rather disappointing. I though they'd have at leaf a handful or more titles.
Aren't title announcements the domain of the respective studios?
 

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I didn't read that you'd have to go with Atmos or Audyssey on the onkyo.
This limitation has been discussed extensively in the various Atmos threads. Onkyo (and thus Integera) dropped Audyssey entirely for their 2014 model year. It's not available in *any* of their new models because of the expense. Licensing fees and the additional DSP hardware that would be needed to support both Audyssey and Atmos are not cheap. As a result, though, Onkyo will be making Atmos available in less expensive AVR models than Denon/Marantz can: D+M have had to add a 4th DSP in order to support Atmos. The Onkyo firmware updates also are only for some of their 2014 models: those which were designed in advance to be able to accept it. It is not available for any of their AVR or pre/pro models from previous years.
 
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