Every new technology needs a killer app – a product using the technology that grabs the public’s consciousness and proves the value of the technological innovation. For Dolby® Atmos™, the newest cinema sound technology, the killer app may prove to be the hit movie Gravity.
Dozens of movies, starting with Brave in June 2012, have been released in Dolby Atmos. But Gravity, which uses Dolby Atmos to envelop viewers in the terrifying disorientation of space, has made the press and public pay attention to movie sound in a way that’s almost unprecedented.
“If you want to have the ultimate Gravity experience and see this film in all its claustrophobic glory, then you really need to seek out a cinema that has a Dolby Atmos sound system,” writes Jim Hill in the Huffington Post. “That way, you can see and hear this movie as [director Alfonso] Cuarón actually wanted audiences to experience it.”
Hill interviews Skip Lievsay, the sound editor for this thriller about two astronauts isolated high above the earth after space debris destroys their ship.
“Honestly, if you listened to the original mix that Alfonso and [sound designer] Glenn [Freemantle] put together for this movie and then compared it to our [Dolby] Atmos remix, it’s like going mono to stereo,” Lievsay says. “The obvious jump in quality that you got when movies went from VHS to DVD. Or from DVD to Blu-ray.
“This movie sounds so much better — more importantly, it plays so much better — when you see it screened in a theatre that has a [Dolby] Atmos sound system.”
Supervising Sound Editor Glenn Freemantle echoed Lievsay to The Verge‘s Bryan Bishop, whose article notes, “Gravity was originally mixed in 7.1, but Freemantle is quite clear that the ultimate version of the film’s sound is the Dolby Atmos mix. Launched last year, Dolby’s latest platform is an impressive leap beyond traditional surround sound on a number of fronts. With 5.1, audiences had those three LCR channels behind the screen, with two additional banks of speakers powered by the left surround and right surround channels. 7.1 split those surround channels up; filmmakers could target the left side or the left rear groups discretely, for example.”
In this video interview, Cuaron says, “I was always asking for possibilities in the mixing room that were not achievable, and now finally with this system—that is, Dolby Atmos—you know, [it’s] this dream come true…. You really can explore the possibilities of depth and separation as never before.”
Fast Company‘s Shalini Sharma gives Dolby Atmos equal billing with the film’s use of 3D in communicating the eerie reality of space. “The surprise success of the sci-fi movie Gravity–which broke box office records for both its stars, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney–is largely being attributed to its heavily rendered 3-D imagery. What audiences may not have realized is that an equally astounding part of the thrill came from a spacey sound system created by Dolby called Atmos.”
The importance of Dolby Atmos to the Gravity experience hasn’t been lost on the public either. Below are a few of the many tweets from filmgoers urging their friends to look for the film in a movie theater with Dolby Atmos:
— Emily Price (@Emily) October 3, 2013
— Marek Veselý (@marekvesely) October 7, 2013
— Josef Bulalaque (@josef_kristian) October 4, 2013
To hear more about the creation of Gravity’s groundbreaking sound, take a look at this video from the Soundworks Collection: