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Latest from Dolby Laboratories: Atmos and Advanced 96 Upsampling

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by Adam Gregorich, Dec 10, 2012.

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  1. Adam Gregorich

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    Dolby Laboratories

    Home Theater Forum had the opportunity to visit Dolby Laboratories and see some of their latest innovations including Atmos, Advanced 96, a prototype glasses free 3D display and their Reference Monitor. I was impressed at how they accommodated our group. There was plenty of time for hands on demos and questions.

    Dolby TrueHD with Advanced 96 Upsampling

    Craig Eggers, Director, Content Creation and Playback, Home Theater Ecosystem talked about how they are improving the audio quality for Blu-ray releases using Advanced 96 Upsampling. While the effect of Advanced 96 can be subtle depending on the material, I am pleased that Dolby is continuing to find ways to improve the experience in the home in a way that doesn’t cost me as a consumer any extra and can use my existing gear. HTF previously covered how Advanced 96 Upsampling works and some of the demos we have had here:
    Atmos

    Stuart Bowling, Sr. Worldwide Technical Marketing Manager walked us through the new Dolby Atmos theatrical surround system. Atmos has amazing potential. So far I have only heard demo clips as there are no Atmos equipped theaters in my area. Hopefully that will change in 2013 as Dolby is aggressively rolling it out in theaters and several upcoming films. HTF previously covered Atmos in-depth here


    Glasses Free 3D



    Roland Vialcu, Sr. Director Broadcast Imaging showed us their prototype glasses free 3D display. It was pretty impressive. Is it perfect? No, but the potential is definitely there. They showed clips of Titanic and Hugo as well as other demo material. With this prototype they weren’t really able to have things “pop-out” as that would reduce the viewing angle, but there was a remarkable amount of depth to the picture. Some of the first impressions of attendees who saw it are here



    Dolby Reference Monitor

    The Dolby Reference Monitor is just that. A reference monitor that can be used in the editing/authoring chain to accurately show filmmakers what their film looks like. Bill Admans showed us several clips that showed off what the display was really capable of. We had several calibrators in our group who were incredibly impressed with the picture quality, one ISF/THX certified calibrator in attendance even commented to me that it was the best picture he had ever seen on a monitor, and he is very picky.

    I really want to thank Josh Gershman and Craig Eggers and all the other executives and presenters from Dolby for reaching out to our members and attendees to show us the latest innovations they are working on. I look forward to additional Advanced 96 releases and having an Atmos theater in my neighborhood soon.
     
  2. Sam Posten

    Sam Posten Moderator
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    I was not conviced by the 96k upsampling but i was BLOWN AWAY by Atmos. I will be starting the Dolby Atmos Fans thread here at HTF later today with some big news!
    I liked Atmos so much that I went out to the AMC Arclight in Sherman Oaks during the HTF meet and watched the horrible Chasing Mavericks just to hear Atmos in the wild! =)
    Thanks to Dolby for the visit!!!!
    Edit: Come join the Atmos excitement in the official Dolby Atmos fan thread!
    http://www.hometheaterforum.com/t/325348/official-dolby-atmos-fans-thread
     
  3. Andy_Munich

    Andy_Munich Stunt Coordinator

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    I have to say, as amazing as everything we did throughout the rest of the week was, it's hard to top our first day. Going into Dolby was the most pure HT nerd experience I've had the pleasure of enjoying.
    As unforgivablely tardy as my impressions here are, it is somewhat fitting I should writing about this today. My longtime girlfriend and now wife and I have just finished planning an outing for almost a dozen of our friends to go see the Hobbit! Why am I so excited? It's not the 48 FPS (I'm guarded) or even the 3D (always a worry), it's the ATMOS!
    Up until a day ago, Dolbly Atmos was only available in one theater here in Washington state, and that was three hours away. But now, I'm happy to say, the AMC Loews Alderwood 16 has Atmos! After the very impressive showing (hearing?) of this technology at the Lab, it was the one thing I couldn't stop telling people about. I've been pretty skeptical about every gimmick the theater chains have tried since the introduction of digital projection; there just hasn't been enough to compete with a quality home theater set-up. Sound at this level is one of the things that can get me excited about going to the movies again; and where I go, friends follow.
    Atmos was far and away my favorite technology from the HTF trip, but I was paying attention to everything. TrueHD has always been my format of choice, even if I admittedly don't have the finely tuned ear of some of my comrades. Glasses free 3D is far from perfect, but its user friendliness for home viewing is very promising; I believe if 3D is to take off in a huge way at home, the glasses need to be taken off as well.
    As for that reference monitor? It just makes me want to believe in Santa again.
     
  4. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Screenwriter

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    I guess I'm too old to be able to distinguish the subtle differences to be heard in the 96K upsampling, but I am very impressed by the glasses-free 3D -- I look forward to its eventual adoption in home theater products. The technology can only improve and it is already off to a very promising start.
    I will be on the lookout for Atmos installed theaters when I go to some of the action-type titles -- very immersive sound.
     
  5. GregK

    GregK Screenwriter

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    Atmos for me easily was the most impressive part of the recent Dolby offerings.
    With Atmos, I was sitting at the far left side in the Dolby screening room- far for optimal seating. But the additional speakers offered more stable phantom imaging. So even for those who are not sitting in "sweet spot" listening positions, audio pans are more accurate and and smooth. The overhead channels were effective and I could easily see some great uses in a variety of soundtracks. Atmos impressed me enough that I was disappointed to discover I would have to listen to the upcoming HOBBIT movie in "standard 5.1" in my given area.
    The autostereoscopic 3DTV seemed like it was not quite ready for prime time. The 3-D image was shallow and often was inverted (reverse R/L 3-D).
    I thought the Dolby 96K upsampling would be a great asset for studios who have made 16bit/48k masters from mag tracks that have turned vinegar years ago. On those cases, those digital masters may be all that is left. With so many craving the "natural sound" of analog mag compared to 16 bit digital, I feel ANY bit of improvement can only help. So in that respect, I applaud Dolby's efforts and marketing approach to adding this (what would normally be a costly) enhancement at the authoring stage instead where it doesn't impact the consumer.
    As for the Dolby reference monitor, did anyone catch any Black Friday deals on that one? Better yet ...any BOGO coupons? :)
     
  6. dmiller68

    dmiller68 Supporting Actor

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    This was one of my favorite stops mostly for the Atmos demo. Tomorrow I get to see the Hobbit in a theater equipped with Dolby Atmos and can't wait! I know people had issues with the glasses free TV. I really felt it was almost there I would use it in one of my non-primary TV's. It is always exciting to see what Dolby is going to bring us next.
     
  7. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Producer
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    Having experienced ATMOS last summer with Disney's Brave, the demo during the HTF Hollywood Meet in October was not quite as exciting to me as it was for others, but was very impressed with the selection of scenes from recent films that were remixed in the format. The climactic scene on the Golden Gate Bridge in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was excellent, especially how ATMOS was able to move the unseen helicopter around the room, including overhead. The clip from The Woman In Black was more subtle, providing a better sense of what was behind Daniel Radcliffe when looking over his shoulder in a POV shot. The sandstorm sequence from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol made it sound like you were right in the middle of the storm. I can't wait to see The Hobbit in HFR 3D and ATMOS next week at the AMC Orange 30, where it was just recently installed, and hope that Regal gets on-board and installs it at their Irvine Spectrum RPX screen real soon. The question that everyone kept asking was "when is ATMOS coming to the home?" I respect the stance Dolby took on the question, saying that they are looking at a way to bring it to the home, but focusing mostly on implementation, acceptance, and installation in movie theatres worldwide first and foremost. In my opinion, ATMOS for the home would be a very niche product, as I cannot see many people mounting two rows of speakers in the ceiling down the center of the living room.

    The Glasses-Free 3-D prototype looked promising, but I think they still have a long way to go, as the sense of depth was too subtle for me. People really do want 3-D that will occasionally pop out of the screen, as I hear that complaint quite often from people who purchased a 3-D HDTV and Blu-ray player who are unsatisfied with the few films they have watched at home.

    The Dolby TrueHD Advanced 96kHz Upsampling was interesting, and for music it did make it sound warmer, but I felt it was too subtle for the general public to notice the difference. My general feeling is that Dolby's home entertainment division is trying to take some market share away from leader DTS. DTS isn't leading the market in Blu-ray because it sounds better (although it typically does), it is just easier to use from a disc-authoring standpoint by being 100% backwards compatible with legacy (or lossy) DTS, something that Dolby TrueHD can't do.

    As a filmmaker, I just about drooled (as did many others in the room) over Dolby's PRM4200 Professional Reference Monitor. This was Dolby's attempt to fill the gap that was left when Sony discontinued their reference CRT monitor that had become the standard throughout the movie industry in post-production and visual effects houses, and I think they succeeded. This 42" LED monitor had the most realistic colors and detail I have ever seen on a flat panel display, but it comes at a very steep price - around $40k, roughly $1,000 per inch.
     
  8. Todd Erwin

    Todd Erwin Producer
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  9. Frank Ha

    Frank Ha Second Unit

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    Our visit with Dolby was very interesting. I enjoyed seeing their demonstrations of the reference monitor, the glasses free 3-D TV, the 96 upsampling and the Atmos theater speaker array.
    The 3-D presentation was quite impressive. While the 3D didn't pop out of the TV, it did have an amazing sense of depth. I would certainly like to have a TV with that capacity!
    The 96 upsampling was very interesting as well. I was most impressed with the subtle difference on the classical music that they demoed. I could definitely hear the difference. It was subtle, but it did sound better. To me it sounded like there was better separation between the instruments in the orchestra. I like that this is basically a free upgrade.
    Now, the Atmos demonstration was not subtle! Wow, what an impression. I really like that the surround sound is so affective no matter where you sit in the theater. For me, this was easily the the best part of our visit with Dolby. I think Dolby has a winner with this technology. We have an Atmos equipped theater just 35 minutest from where we live and we are definitely planning on seeing "The Hobbit" there.
     
  10. RolandL

    RolandL Producer

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    I could not hear any difference with the 96 Upsampling.
    The Dolby Atmos theatrical surround system was very impressive. Can't wait till it comes to theatres in CT.
    For their first try at glasses free 3D I thought it was pretty cool. But, I enjoy the out-of-the-screen 3D effects so, it would not be a TV for me.
    The Dolby Reference Monitor was very nice. I would never spend that come of money on a TV though.
     
  11. dmiller68

    dmiller68 Supporting Actor

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    So I saw the Hobbit today in a Dolby Atmos theater. It was very cool, I think it showed itself well. My only comment was that the Hobbit didn't have a super aggressive soundtrack. Although I got so immersed I may have just missed it. :)

    Nice little gift on the way out....
     
  12. Joe Wong

    Joe Wong Supporting Actor

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    I'm as much of a sound geek as a video geek. In fact, for me, the lossless audio on Blu-rays was what impressed me more than the 1080p video back during the format's infancy in 2006/2007!
    So the Dolby visit was exciting for me. Many of the film studio visits are great and informative but tend to focus on restoration of older titles. Dolby presented on newer technologies.
    I love native 96kHz audio (David Matthews at Madison Square Garden, Roy Orbison Black and White Nights, Celine Dion Live in Vegas are great examples), but have never understood the appeal of upsampling. While I was prepared to be open-minded, the Advanced 96kHz Upsampling technology was hard to gauge as there was no "blind" testing. We were told which clip was upsampled, and hence which one should be better. We weren't given the opportunity to decide which one was upsampled or not.
    What blew me away, however, was Dolby Atmos. I think the people in my group could discern my interest when I kept asking if there would be a home implementation. And at the Hobbit Dolby Atmos screening today, even the general audience hollered and whistled their approval after the Atmos trailer. Enough said.
    Joe
     
  13. Dave Whipps

    Dave Whipps Stunt Coordinator

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    Dolby labs continues to show why they are leaders in the industry.
    The ATMOS demo really :"showed" what theater sound can be. This is really something to look forward to and would certainly be something I will be willing to spend extra money for at a theater. I can't wait unitl it comes to a theater in my area.
    Something else to look out for is Dolby 3D. The demo was impressive and made me a believer that quality glasses free 3D is a reality. I hope we'll be seeing this out there on the market soon.
    And finally thanks to Dolby for providing the increased 96kHz audio. This is something that most of us with home theaters can take advantage of an enjoy.
    Dave
     
  14. captgoodguy

    captgoodguy Stunt Coordinator

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    While most people are commenting on the ATMOS and PRM demonstrations which were both nothing less than stellar, I thought I would give my thoughts on the lesser discussed glasses free 3D.
    We all know it has to be there in order for any type of future 3D profitability, but I was skeptical that it could be done. I couldn’t imagine how it was going to work without some sort of extra “optical assistance”. With that in mind, my expectations were understandably low as I entered the room. Several people rushed to the front row, but I intentionally stayed standing in the back. I wanted to do some around the room testing.
    When the demonstration started, I was taken by surprise. The 3D was much more than anticipated. Images did indeed seem to come off the screen. I don’t know how they did it, but it worked and it worked well from my viewpoint. As the demonstration continued, there were a few times where the 3D seemed a bit less sharp around the outer edges of the screen but it's the first generation of the product so I took that into consideration. I also walked around the room to discover that the 3D really only works within a certain viewing range. The viewing from outside that range resumes to 2D graphics. Still just as sharp, no dual left/right images. A clean, clear picture. Is this a bad thing? It depends on your perspective. I consider it a good thing. Perhaps you have guests that don’t want to participate in the 3D viewing. Some people are more prone to motion sickness and 3D doesn’t really work well for them. This option allows everyone to enjoy the viewing experience together, yet in their own way. It’s a win/win in my opinion.
    Some people were not impressed with the demonstration and others wanted a different type of 3D effects which is ok - we all like different things. However to me, that issue is really more about what effects were created by the writer/director (like pitchforks or swords coming at you) vs. the technology. Is the product perfect at this time? No, but it gave me a sense of what’s to come and that possibility, that potential is what literally gave me chills on the day of the demonstration. I might add that it was also good enough for James Cameron to track them down at a trade show to see it for himself. I look forward to seeing the second and third generation of this product.
    My sincere thanks for the time and effort Dolby put into this for us and the food and gifts as well.
     
  15. Scott-S

    Scott-S Cinematographer
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    I did notice a difference when listening to the 96 upsampling but it was very subtle. It was so subtle that I don't even know how to describe the difference other than it felt more "real" or "alive". I doubt I would have been able to notice anything if I was not able to hear the old and new sound bites one after the other to compare. I do think that those who are true audiophile would probably like this.
    The Atmos demo was pretty neat. I love the idea of getting away from the 5.1, 7.1 way of thinking and going to the mapped approach. It makes total sense to me. The demo we got to experience was great and I do look forward to seeing a entire movie in a theater set up for this.
     
  16. Charles Smith

    Charles Smith Extremely Talented Member

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    I'm afraid it's all too easy to have been blown away by Atmos! But Atmos deserves every bit of praise, and every post, we can muster. Like Roland, I look forward to hearing of some installations in Connecticut. The Apes and other demos were wonderful, but one film clip I would like to have had demo'd both with and without Atmos would be Woman in Black. Like someone else said, it's a little more subtle, and the original track is spooky and thrilling anyway. (Well, aren't they all!) But a comparison of that one both ways would be fascinating.

    I'm a little 'eh' regarding glasses-free 3D becoming a truly workable reality, and it's not something anyone need ever sell me on -- but I have to admit they're on to something I couldn't have imagined without the demonstration. I had to move around a bit to find the sweet spot, but the depth in a few of those shots in Hugo were amazing.

    In the 96k upsampling demo, I think the description "slightly more alive" was about all I could come up with, too, and I have absolutely zero faith in the integrity of my own ears where any tougher testing (such as a real blind test) would be concerned. I did think I recognized a subtle difference in a couple of the samples, but it was subtle to the point that I wouldn't try to claim I wasn't influenced by already knowing which I was hearing. That said, I think the goals are laudable and worthy of continued development.

    (I wanted to make one constructive suggestion about the use of the opening bars of Also Sprach Zarathustra ("2001") in this demo: The clip was way too short, starting in the middle of the full orchestral climax. The ears need a little bit of context. This short section (of a very long piece of music) has such amazing contrasts, with the quiet sub-bass opening, the soft and building trumpet fanfares, etc., that a major opportunity in judging the 96k upsampling might be getting missed by just plopping us down in the middle of the crashing end, as it were. But of course that would take a great deal more time.)

    The reference monitor is really amazing, and I appreciate the rare opportunity of seeing it. I did wonder how it would look in a more darkened room that might better simulate actual working and viewing conditions in an actual studio workplace -- if, indeed, I'm even right about that. And I know this wouldn't be practical, but in addition to seeing a scene specifically created or chosen for such a demo, I also longed to see what one of the really great reference Blu-rays, of something I'm familiar with, would look like on it.

    We were treated incredibly well at just about every place we went, but Dolby's standard of hospitality just about redefines the term. Like someone said above, what a perfect kickoff to the entire week. Our visit, and everything it included, the generous participation of so many Dolby leaders, even the very pacing of each item on the agenda .... it was professional, gracious, and exemplary in every way. Thanks to all concerned!
     
  17. Colin Davidson

    Colin Davidson Second Unit

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    First a thanks to Dolby Labs for having us visit again. They always provide fascinating insights into the new technologies they are working on and have released. Everyone at Dolby was fantastic at answering our questions and providing demos that help to understand what they are accomplishing.
    We first attended the 96kHz demo and found the choices used for the demo of the technology very appropriate and interesting. To my "old" ears I could definitely hear the difference in the samples they provided. I felt that it enhanced the visual aspect of the materials shown.
    We next saw the glasses free 3D that is in the works. At the start of the demo we were not in the exact "sweet spot" for getting the full effect but were able to move into that spot as the Hugo demo played. I found the 3D effect to be good but not quite great. I am in the "non-popout" 3D camp and just want the 3D to enhance the viewing experience. I felt that the direction it was going and the progress that the Dolby staff indicated they were making in this area had me very interested in watching the innovations that is to come from Dolby in this area.
    The reference monitor demo was very cool and I could see how that will help the industry in providing the best possible results of color correction.
    Last was the Dolby Atmos demo. To steal a line from a different company "The audience is listening" can certainly be true of Atmos. It provided a wider range and field of sound that again gave a more immersive film experience. Unfortunately the closest Atmos equipped theater is in Vancouver, WA about 300 miles south of where I live. I hope that theaters in my local area will be upgrading soon so that I can experience it again for a full length movie.
    Thanks again to Dolby Labs for a great visit.
     

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