A few weeks ago, Dolby Labs announced that the revolutionary Atmos surround sound format will make its way to Blu-ray and home theater hardware later this year, but left details about the timeframe or exactly which movies will offer Atmos unclear. In the meantime, could Dolby have secretly slipped an Atmos test disc to market without telling anyone?
Our friends at Big Picture Big Sound believe that this is possible. Editor Chris Boylan (an occasional Roundtable contributor here) points to the recent Collector’s Edition reissue of the animated hit ‘How to Train Your Dragon‘ as a likely candidate. Obviously intended to promote this summer’s theatrical sequel, that re-release could very easily have amounted to a simple repackaging of the old Blu-ray from 2010 into a new case with different cover art. Instead, DreamWorks went to the trouble of upgrading the movie’s soundtrack to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, a step up from the previous Blu-ray’s 5.1.
Why would the studio bother to do this? Was anyone ever disappointed with the 5.1 on the old Blu-ray? Have any viewers clamored to hear the movie remixed with a couple of discrete back surround channels, when most A/V receivers can pretty effectively matrix a 5.1 track’s surround audio to those speakers anyway?
Chris speculates that the new soundtrack may be a stealth test case for Atmos on Blu-ray, in order to ensure that the format can be encoded onto a current Blu-ray disc and still be compatible with legacy hardware. The home version of Atmos will be built on the foundation of a traditional Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track with additional metadata containing the Atmos extensions. A standard non-Atmos A/V receiver will simply ignore the metadata and decode the 7.1 portion of the track, invisibly to most viewers. An Atmos-capable receiver, on the other hand, will detect the metadata and decode the entire Atmos soundfield. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to test this out until the first Atmos receivers hit the market.
In addition to ‘Dragon’, Chris also makes some educated guesses about other upcoming Blu-rays that might be among the first official wave of Atmos titles. Read the whole article here.
If you’re among the brave who intend to upgrade your surround sound equipment to accommodate Atmos later this year, what movies would you most like to see feature the format?