Just What The Hell Are Dolby Atmos And Dolby Vision?

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During yesterday's WWDC opening keynote, Apple revealed the latest version of their operating system for the Apple TV, tvOS. Part of that announcement was that iTunes will be home to the largest collection of Dolby Vision-supported movies in the world, and these titles will also include Dolby Atmos audio for free. But what are Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos?

Dolby Vision

As the screens in our homes and the projection equipment in theatres keep getting better and better, there's a need to ensure the content we watch is delivered in formats that can take advantage of the new tech in our lounges and cinemas.

Dolby Vision was introduced in 2014 to bring "bringing high-dynamic-range (HDR) and wide-color-gamut technology" to 4K video. It's a set of technologies that Dolby says enhances the experience for consumers from "glass to glass". It includes tools so creators can generate content that will look at its best no matter what device its viewed on.

And it's not only movies and TV shows - it can also be used in games to create more lifelike images.

Dolby has a bunch of technical documents about Dolby Vision, including this primer which gives some introductory information.

Dolby Atmos

In the old days there was mono. Then came stereo and it was followed by surround sound. In the real world, sound is all around us and moves around so we know where something is even when we can't see it. This is what's behind Dolby Atmos - the idea that sound is dynamic and moving.

Dolby Atmos is supported on a variety of different equipment including some sounders and speaker rigs. It allows for up to 128 discrete audio tracks and 64 unique speaker feeds to be programmed so an immersive sound experience can be created.

So, when the bad guy sneaks up on their victim, you'll hear the creaking floorboard or crackling leaves behind you.

Why does this matter?

As someone who grew up with a 22-inch Pye TV with one speaker and remembers when colour TV was introduced, this is all pretty overwhelming. It means we can have a cinema-like experience at home using easily available equipment with content coming from a variety of sources. Netflix is already streaming Dolby Vision content so news that the Apple TV 4K supports that format is a step forward for those looking for the best possible lounge-room experience.

Of course, you'll need a decent internet connection, as high-quality content like this uses a lot more bandwidth than HD content. And you'll need a TV that supports Dolby Vision. For sound, you'll need a speaker system or sounder that supports Dolby Atmos.

But if you have those, then you'll be able to enjoy a premium home theatre experience.


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