Imagine sounds swirling around you from left to right, rising up from below to the greatest heights and moving you backwards from front to rear until they finally disappear. This is a sonic universe which fully immerses you. It’s a three-dimensional surround sound technology called Dolby Atmos.
As a Steering Committee Member of the Audio Engineering Society in Philadelphia, I had the privilege to produce this AES event in cooperation with David Ivory who is Director of Sound Recording and Music Technology at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, PA.
On June 2, 2022, this event was held at The Mix Room located in the Advanced Technology Center on the MCCC campus. The Mix Room has a fully installed Dolby Atmos system featuring seven (7) surround sound speakers, four (4) elevated speakers above and two (2) subwoofers. It’s known as a 7.2.4 speaker configuration.
Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody Mixed On The Dolby Atmos System
David Ivory hosted the event along with Chip Powell, AES Chair of the Philadelphia Chapter. After David’s opening presentation about the design and performance of this system, he invited the attendees to experience a reimagined mix of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on the Dolby Atmos system in The Mix Room.
In short, immersive would be the best description for this mix. But the most striking segment was the choir section panned all around and even above. Critically, Brian May’s lead guitar part was murky and lost focus in the mix. It was panned too wide and would’ve been better if it remained in mono.
Regardless, the experience was awesome! It opens up new possibilities in the world of sound design. But a word of caution, discretion is key. Any experienced mixer can easily get in their own way, where the mix loses focus and the audience becomes sonically fatigued.
The Dolby Atmos system runs on its own computer and easily interfaces with Pro Tools using an Avid controller. But, keep in mind, this system isn’t cheap. In addition, there’s a steep learning curve where a team effort would be needed to get it fully operational and maintained.
Most movie houses and some live theaters feature Dolby Atmos. So to experience this amazing three-dimensional surround sound system, get tickets to the next Marvel movie like Thor, out in theaters now.