Pixar's Brave to debut new Dolby Atmos sound system

Still from Brave Pixar's Brave tells the story of a Scottish princess who must find a way to lift a curse

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Cinema sound system provider Dolby has announced that its new audio format will receive its premiere in June with the release of Pixar's movie Brave.

The Disney-owned animation studio's film will use the format in a limited number of "premium" cinemas in the US.

Dolby plans a wider international release in 2013.

It says the addition of speakers on cinema ceilings and new software lets sounds be moved and positioned more precisely in theatres.

The San Francisco-based firm's senior vice president, Ioan Allen, said the innovation would give audience members "the illusion of there being an infinite number of [audio] channels... all the way around you and over your head".

He added: "The theatres want an immersive experience that is something superior to anything the public can have in the home because that's what keeps the cinema business driving, and I think we've achieved that."

Extra speakers

Technical guidelines released by the firm state that the system offers more control through the addition of surround speakers on theatres' side walls and ceilings.

Extra speakers behind the screen are also used to create "smoother pans" of sound - something the company says will be most noticeable in rooms with very wide screens.

It says each speaker needs to be individually wired back to the cinema's amplifiers to create up to 128 distinct, but simultaneous, audio feeds. In the past, mixers had assigned the same output to groups of speakers in large theatres.

"The audience will enjoy a completely new listening experience with enveloping sound that brings the stories on screen more fully to life," it promises.

Using the example of the sound of a gunshot fired, it says that "being able to pinpoint this sound could be more effective than trying to emulate it through an array of loudspeakers".

The firm adds that its Atmos tools can also generate mixes for its 5.1 and 7.1 speaker systems, meaning that sound technicians who adopt the format can save time when creating different versions of their soundtracks.

The firm has yet to release a price guide to equip or upgrade cinemas, but Forbes reports that the cost of fitting it in a medium-sized theatre is likely to be $25,000-$30,000 (£15,500-£18,600).

This is not the first time that Dolby and Pixar have teamed up to offer a new sound experience.

In 2010, the 3D release of Toy Story 3 was the first movie to feature the Dolby Surround 7.1 system, helping match sound effects to the on-screen action.

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