Did you know Chennai is the first Indian city to play host to the Dolby Atmos technology, the latest in cinema sound?

A tech fan revels in new audio technology that will even make the superstar go, “How is it?”

AD: Hi, so how did you celebrate yesterday?

BC: If you’re referring to the 12-12-12 date…

AD: No, Chennai had a lot to cheer about yesterday. It became the first Indian city to play host to the Dolby Atmos technology, the latest in cinema sound.

BC: Who would have thought that there would be something superior to surround sound?

AD: Imagine sitting in a theatre with 128 audio tracks filling the theatre, with voices and music coming at you from 64 speakers located at various positions... And the audio you hear is based on the position of the images on screen.

BC: So the sound moves along with the visual.

AD: Yes, an object’s location on screen is mapped by the technology — and the sound pertaining to that specific location is played. It’s known as object-oriented sound.

BC: How does this play out in a theatre?

AD: There will be two rows of speakers above the audience as well, in addition to the other speakers that are strategically placed in the theatre. These help sound travel across the theatre hall to give a 360-degree feel and make the audio a lot more realistic.

BC: I can imagine the entire horror movie factory licking its lips in anticipation of scaring the audiences more than ever. But what about theatres that have invested in 5.1 and 7.1 surround?

AD: Atmos can help create audio tracks to suit various formats.

BC: Sound has travelled a long way, literally and figuratively. Not too long ago, I recall theatres advertising stereophonic sound, when speakers were played full blast for impact — and shattered our ear drums...

AD: Then came 5.1 surround, with five main channels and a low frequency channel.

BC: 7.1 surround came after that, right? So all the movies and the theatres they’re releasing in will adopt this technology?

AD: To start with, around 50 theatres across the country will be equipped with the Atmos technology. As for movies, only a few have tried it out, Disney-Pixar’s Brave being the first to do so. Incidentally, the Life of Pi had also used this technology, but…

BC: …since Atmos has just come to India, we ended up seeing it in our regular Dolby Digital surround.

AD: Right! Dolby and Pixar are becoming a winning combination when it comes to technology. It was Pixar’s Toy Story 3 that saw the introduction of the Dolby Surround 7.1 system. A couple of years later…

BC: …Atmos was featured for the first time in Pixar’s Brave.

AD: But 2013 holds much promise, with Warner Bros bringing out the next edition of the Star Trek series using this audio format.

BC: 5.1 and 7.1 are now available for home entertainment too. What about Atmos?

AD: Right now, it’s restricted to theatres, but let’s hope…

BC: You said Chennai’s got a lot to cheer about. What else…

AD: Well, you must have seen the Tamil movie Sivaji, around 4-5 years ago. It’s back in 3D and incorporates the Atmos technology — the first Indian film to do so.

BC: I can understand remastering the film in 3D, but how did they change the audio to the Atmos format?

AD: Chennai’s not only got India’s first theatre that supports Atmos, but also the country’s first studio with the know-how for handling the technology.

BC: It is said that a technological revolution is always announced from the rooftops. In this case, with all those speakers in the ceiling, they’re literally doing it.

sureshl.india@gmail.com